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San Francisco Giants Lose, Regain Outright Division Lead

Aug 10, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 10, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
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When the San Francisco Giants lost to the Miami Marlins on Tuesday, they also lost sole possession of first place in the National League West, which had held for nearly three months. That effectively reset the season, with the Giants and their beloved rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, moving forward with equal opportunity to claim the division.

A day later, the Giants moved back in front of the Dodgers, having responded with a 1-0 victory over the Marlins to secure their first series win since the all-star break. (Yeah, that was about a month ago.)

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Should Giants folks be optimistic after the team went into Miami and took of three from a playoff contender? Eh, not quite yet. They still only won with one run, after having been shut out in two of the previous three games. Their one offensive outbreak in these past few days was the 14-inning affair in which Brandon Crawford racked up seven hits. So, it took a feat not achieved by a Major Leaguer in 41 years to secure that victory. Crawford also happened to be the lone run contributor in Wednesday’s victory.

Factoring in the extra innings, the Giants averaged two runs per innings over the past four games. When looking at the entire nine-game road trip, the Giants scored 3.2 runs per nine innings. The Giants did score at least seven runs in three of those contests, but the shutouts and one-run outputs remain all too common.

That’s not exactly offensive juggernaut-ism.

On the flip side, Jeff Samardzija tossed his first quality-esque start in more than a month. It technically wasn’t a quality start, because he only pitched 5-2/3 innings while the stat requires a minimum of six innings. But no runs in 5-2/3 innings is better than three runs in six innings, so we’ll give it to him (unofficially).

It’s worth noting a strong performance by Samardzija, since there haven’t been many lately. He started 11 games in April and May, of which eight registered as quality starts. Since then, only two of 12 starts technically qualify as quality. (Unofficially, it’s three if Wednesday’s start is included.)

Fortunately, Samardzija’s rare outing, combined with stellar bullpen work, came on a day that the Giants really needed. Unfortunately, the Giants have needed many of those outings lately but haven’t received many—from Samardzija or otherwise.

The tide does appear to be turning somewhat, though. While Johnny Cueto is in a bit of a slump and it’s unknown if Samardzija’s nice start was the beginning of a trend in the right direction, the rest of the staff looks good. Madison Bumgarner has his off-days, but he’s clearly one of the best pitchers in baseball. Matt Moore has delivered in his two starts since joining the Giants, and Matt Cain has looked—having allowed no runs in his two most recent (yet truncated) starts.

So, the pitching might be getting on track. But if they want to beat out the Dodgers over the season’s final 48 games—or least stay even to maintain their one-game lead—the offense will need to follow suit.

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