After bouncing back from a recent slump with a series win against the Reds, the San Francisco Giants are tasked with a four game set against their last NL West opponent, the Colorado Rockies. The Giants will roll with a red hot Brandon Crawford, and look to get some support from their starting rotation. The Giants had to use the bullpen quite a bit in the last series, so they will need guys like Derek Holland and Jeff Samardzija to get deep into the games.
The Rockies are only one and a half games ahead of the Giants, and they’re just barely hanging on. Offensive threats in Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon continue to cause problems for opposing pitchers. With a bullpen lead by Wade Davis and Adam Ottavino, the Rockies are successful in holding onto their leads. Even though they have hit better at Coors Field, no surprise, their home record is still 7-11. Their 16-9 road record has really been more due to their pitching than their hitting, again no surprise there.
This will be a good chance for the Giants to gain some games in the division and give themselves a nice gap from the Dodgers and Padres.
Game One: Two Familiar Foes
The Giants open their series against Chad Bettis, a guy whom they are definitely familiar with. In the other corner stands Jeff Samardzija, who is still trying to get into his groove this season. In his last start against the Pirates, Samardzija gave up two home runs in 5 2/3 innings. While he did get the no decision, giving up five earned runs did the Giants no favors, as they had to claw back each time they fell behind.
Samardzija’s biggest problems are Nolan Arenado and Gerardo Parra, both in double digit XBH numbers against him. Ian Desmond also has a fantastic resume against Samardzija, but he has slumped mightily all season. The Rockies are without DJ LeMahieu, yet another problem just avoided for him. With that being said, he will need to clean up the extra base hits if the Giants want to come away with a win.
Bettis has been solid the entire season, until his last start against the Brewers, in which he gave up seven runs in five innings. The Giants still need to watch out for him, as he has been a very good road pitcher this season. Brandon Belt is 7-for-16 and Andrew McCutchen is 4-for-8 against Bettis. Both have been hitting the ball very well this past series, so I would look for them to turn his luck on the road around.
Game Two: Mr. Holland’s Opus Part II
Derek Holland pitched masterfully on Sunday to prevent a sweep by the Pirates, and he’ll be asked to build on that start against second year starter Kyle Freeland. Last season, Freeland pitched the final game of a sweep against the Giants at the beginning of April, but did not have much success against them in subsequent outings.
Chris Ianetta has the most career experience by far against Holland, going 10-for-28 with a home run and two doubles. Blackmon and LeMahieu also have homeruns against Holland, but the latter will not be a factor in this series. For the rest of the lineup, this is pretty much a new experience for them against the left-handed veteran.
Kyle Freeland struggled to start the season, but has since then settled into May. His splits are far better at home than on the road though, which will work in the Giants’ favor. Gorkys Hernandez is a career 5-for-10 against Freeland, and Nick Hundley is 5-for-11 against him. The Brandons do not have batting averages against Freeland, combining for five strikeouts in twelve at-bats.
Game Three: Struggles Abound
Chris Stratton has struggled mightily in the month of May, giving up an average of four earned runs per start. Jon Gray struggled to start the season, but had a few great starts before coughing up a stinker in his last start against the Brewers. Both have nearly identical stats, and both have identical experience against their opponents.
In his last start against the Rockies, Stratton gave up two hits to LeMahieu, Ianetta and Blackmon. He held the Rockies at Coors to three runs, but had to be pulled after the 4th inning due to a high pitch count. Still, this is going to be the one big question mark game for him due to recent struggles.
Jon Gray has started against the Giants once each of the last two seasons. In his last start, Gray was pitching a shutout before being pulled after the 3rd inning due to a toe injury. In 2016, Gray gave up four runs over 5 1/3 innings at AT&T Park. Andrew McCutchen has good history against Gray, with four hits in seven at-bats.
Game Four: The Tale of Two Ty(ler)s
Ty Blach and Tyler Anderson will be starting in the final game of the long series. Both lefties are serviceable this season so far, but have their individual struggles. Both are no stranger to their respective opponent, although the Rockies have been more successful against Blach.
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Nolan Arenado has Blach’s number, getting seven hits in eleven at-bats. Three of those hits are extra base hits, and Arenado has batted in four runs in that span. Blach has never gotten Ianetta out, and Trevor Story has two home runs in his career against Blach. Barring his start against Seattle, he’s been better at home than on the road. However, in his last start, he was pulled for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 4th inning. Luckily for Bochy and the Giants, the move paid off, but it lead to Blach’s shortest start of the year.
Crawford has had good at-bats against Anderson with one home run and one single, and the same goes for Buster Posey. Blanco and Hernandez are both 1-for-2 lifetime against him. In his last start at AT&T Park, Anderson gave up four runs in four innings, including two home runs. Anderson has not had much run support in his games against the Giants, and is 0-3 against them lifetime.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Both teams are just about even this season, and have not been particularly dominant for stretches. Just when you think a starter is gaining some momentum, they give up a bad start. They both have injuries to key players, but that is no excuse for the performance this season. The Giants have won three of their last five series, while the Rockies have won two of their last five series while splitting two of them.
The Rockies have only seen the Padres this season in the NL West, and have relative success against them. The Giants have seen every other NL West opponent, with mixed success. Regardless of the other NL West opponents, I could very easily see a split here. However, it would behoove the Giants to take advantage of the Rockies road offense numbers, and get their starters on the right track. This shouldn’t be an easy win for any team, so I expect a fun back and forth series.