San Francisco Giants Look for Strong Finish Before All-Star Break
By Nick Vezmar
The San Francisco Giants will wrap up the first half of the season against the Oakland Athletics this weekend before the All-Star break.
Although A’s owner Dave Kaval would like you to believe this is a huge rivalry, the San Francisco Giants know that every game is huge regardless of their opponent.
After winning yet another series at home, the Giants see their crosstown “rival” this weekend for a three-game set. Make no mistake, the A’s are on their own warpath as they attempt to gain ground in the hot AL West.
The Giants are also in the thick of their own race, pacing with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. As they clutch on to their 30-17 home record, the A’s are currently thriving as a road team at 28-20. Needless to say, the Giants will need to take advantage of their good fortune at home before the All-Star Break. The two teams will square off again in Oakland after the four-day break.
Game One: Bumgarner (2-3, 3.09 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) vs. Jackson (1-0, 2.45 ERA, 0.93 WHIP)
After having back-to-back dominating home games, Madison Bumgarner posted two fairly pedestrian starts against the Rockies and Cardinals. The Giants offense ultimately bailed Bumgarner out of his struggles in his Sunday start against the Cards. Given how up-and-down the offense has been, Bumgarner needs to find some consistency against the A’s. History bodes well for Bumgarner as he has won his last two decisions against Oakland. Outside of Jed Lowrie and Jonathan Lucroy, there is not much of a threat posed against him in this lineup.
Sipping from the fountain of youth is Edwin Jackson, who is now playing for his seventh ballclub in four seasons. He seems to be finding his stride, going into the 6th inning in each of his starts for the A’s, and not allowing more than 2 earned runs in those starts. He did struggle a bit with his command in his last start against Cleveland, but the A’s rallied late and got it done in extras to stave off his first loss of the season. The Giants look to cause some misfortune, with Andrew McCutchen (.385, 3 HR, 9 RBI vs. Jackson) and Pablo Sandoval (.474, 1 HR, 6 RBI vs. Jackson) having some tremendous career numbers against the 34-year-old starter.
Game Two: Samardzija (1-5, 6.42 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) vs. Anderson (1-2, 5.75 ERA, 1.77 WHIP)
Returning from the disabled list, Jeff Samardzija was not relatively impressive in his Saturday start against the Cardinals. The lack of run support doomed his start from the get-go, and he was pulled after five innings of work. He looks to bounce back against the A’s on Saturday, attempting to get his second win of the season. Marcus Semien has some good history against Samardzija, and he has yet to get Mark Canha out in his career.
Brett Anderson recently returned from the disabled list as well, although his first start back was much better than Samardzija’s. He currently holds a 2-4 record against the Giants, giving up only 23 runs in 9 starts. All of those career losses against the Giants came at AT&T Park, with some below average numbers in San Francisco. Brandon Belt (2-for-4, 1 RBI vs. Anderson) and Brandon Crawford (5-for-11, 2 RBI vs. Anderson) present the biggest challenges. However, the Giants have struggled mightily against left-handed pitching all season, so this matchup may favor Anderson more.
Game Three: Suarez (3-5, 3.75 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) vs. Manaea (8-6, 3.44 ERA, 0.99 WHIP)
The Sunday game should provide fans with plenty of fireworks, as Andrew Suarez makes his first career start against the A’s. Since the beginning of June, Suarez has only given up 12 earned runs in 8 starts. He has pitched four consecutive games where he has given up only one earned a run. Due to his struggles in May, the Giants young lefty has remained under the radar for the most part. However, we all know what Suarez brings to the table. He pounds the strike zone, and his numbers at home have been phenomenal.
In the other corner is the A’s young lefty Sean Manaea, whom the Giants have only seen once before. In his last start against the Giants, he only went three innings while giving up six runs (two earned runs) and only striking out one batter. Riding five consecutive quality starts, he was only able to go four innings in his last game. He looks to get back on the right track Sunday, but he will need to get through Gorkys Hernandez (2-for-3, 1 2B vs. Manaea) and likely Nick Hundley (1-for-2, 1 HR, 2 RBI vs. Manaea) to do so.
Bridging the Gaps
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The Giants offense took a nosedive in this homestand. Outside of Sunday’s shellacking of the Cardinals, they have only scored 14 runs in 6 games. Of course, the Giants scored 5 of those runs in their last game against the Cubs. The month of July has not been kind to the Giants’ offense, but their starting pitching and bullpen have helped them weather the storm. The most glaring stat is the Giants ability to score runs with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Ironically, the Giants have walked off in that situation with a couple of wins this season. Still, the situational statistics haunt San Francisco. Andrew McCutchen, Gorkys Hernandez and Alen Hanson are the biggest offenders, combining for a batting average of .146 in that situation. Compare that to Austin Slater and Steven Duggar, who are .500 and .333 in that situation respectively. Albeit, this is a small sample size, but it’s unavoidable that “the kids” need to get more at-bats and more opportunities.
The Giants should benefit from this off day after traveling twice without any breaks in between. They need to take advantage of an A’s lineup that has trouble hitting for power against lefties, and they cannot fall asleep on a lineup that has clawed their way back into games late. The A’s do present a challenge, so this should be a good and fun series before the All-Star Break.