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San Francisco Giants Starting Rotation Beginning to Take Shape

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Madison Bumgarner #40 of the San Francisco Giants throws a pitch in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Madison Bumgarner #40 of the San Francisco Giants throws a pitch in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The San Francisco Giants knew they could count on Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto to anchor their rotation heading into the 2018 season, but the other three slots were a question mark.

Could Chris Stratton continue his surprising success from 2017? Would Ty Blach pitch like he does against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers the same way he does all the other teams?

And could the Giants catch lightning in a bottle with Derek Holland or rookie Andrew Saurez?

With their two aces cracked early in the season, the Giants would have to find out the answers to these questions quickly.

Madison Bumgarner, who returned Monday in a loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, was out the first two months of the season with a broken finger.

Bumgarner pitched six innings of two-run ball in his season debut.

Their one ace left, Johnny Cueto, was 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA before he went down with elbow inflammation. There was fear he would be out for the season with Tommy John surgery, but doctors said about two months of rest and relaxation would do the trick.

But Cueto is making great progress and could be back in late June. Before Wednesday’s game against the Diamondbacks, Cueto was playing catch on the field.

And veteran Jeff Samardzija, who was put on the disabled list twice this season with a pectoral injury, has a 6.56 ERA in eight starts. But the walks were the concerning thing for him, giving up 23 free passes while striking out 26 batters in 35 2/3 innings pitched.

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So, what did the Giants do without their two aces? To use a poker term, they used their suited connectors to piece together a competitive rotation.

Stratton, Suarez, Holland, Blach, and now rookie Derek Rodriguez all kept the Giants around .500. On Wednesday morning, they sit just 2.5 games out behind the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But it was a struggle.

The Giants rank No. 22 in baseball in starting pitcher ERA with a 4.56 clip. Giants starters ranked No. 23 in WHIP at 1.37. Bumgarner only pitched in one of those games.

But of late, the rotation without their aces stepped up. In the last five games, no Giants starter has given up more than two runs.

And Rodriguez, the son of Hall of Fame catcher Ivan, pitched 6 innings of one-run ball against the Phillies on Sunday.

The fill-ins did their job, but now it’s time for the big boys to anchor the rotation and help the Giants go on a run.

And when Cueto returns, the Giants could have the best one-two punch in baseball and could really go on a run.

We’ll have a better sense of the Giants’ starting staff come July.

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