San Francisco Giants Return Home to Face Reigning Champs
By Nick Vezmar
Surviving a four-game road split in Arizona, the San Francisco Giants return home with their first winning road trip since last summer.
Timely hitting and good starts from Madison Bumgarner and Derek Holland were the difference makers. The San Francisco Giants remained steady in the division, but lost some ground in the Wild Card race.
They now have a tough challenge ahead of them in the Houston Astros, a team that is sputtering but managed to best the Dodgers in a three-game series.
The Giants’ last home stand was not great, dropping three-of-four games to the Brewers. They will need to get a couple of wins in order to stay alive in the division race, and will be doing so against the bottom end of the Astro’s rotation.
In response, the Giants will be sending their two best starters in an attempt to get those wins.
They scored an average of four runs in their last road trip, but were only able to scratch across nine runs in the last three games. So their starters will need to be at the top of their game against the American League’s second best team.
Game One: Rodriguez (5-1, 2.59 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) vs. Morton (12-2, 2.90 ERA, 1.16 WHIP)
In the talks for NL Rookie of the Year, Dereck Rodriguez has been absolutely phenomenal in the Giants’ rotation. In his four July starts, he’s gone at least six innings and given up no more than two runs.
Before the heartbreaker loss against Milwaukee, the Giants had seven consecutive wins when he started.
This will be his first time against the Astros, but his home stats bode well for him. Rodriguez has played against some quality offenses, so the Astros should be in for a little bit of a challenge.
The Giants haven’t seen Charlie Morton since 2015, when he was a member of the Pirates. He has been solid pretty much all year, with some slippery starts interspersed. Still, he can give the Giants plenty of trouble.
In his last start at AT&T Park in 2014, Morton went five innings and gave up four runs. In his most recent starts against the Giants, he has been much more successful.
Buster Posey has the better history against Morton, going 6-for-18 with two doubles and an RBI. None of the Giants have a home run against Morton in their careers.
Game Two: Bumgarner (4-4, 2.97 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) vs. Keuchel (9-9, 3.61 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
It’s safe to say Madison Bumgarner did not have his best start last Thursday against the Diamondbacks, but for all his struggles he limited them to only one run. Ultimately, the bullpen was able to bail him out of his struggles, and the offense went on a late tear to seal the victory.
He’ll likely be relieved to have another home start, where his numbers (3-2, 2.01 ERA, .197 AVG) have been stellar.
Although he has not been his best this year, Evan Gattis has the best career numbers against Bumgarner. The only other guy with solid career numbers is Jose Altuve, who is spending time on the disabled list, which could be extended past this series.
Dallas Keuchel has shared similar fortunes to Bugmarner, although he has a much better road record. He has been on fire as of late, winning five of his last six decisions. In those wins, he’s gone an average of seven innings, and given up no more than three runs in each of those starts.
Even though he is at the bottom of the rotation, he has been one of the most consistent starters in July.
Evan Longoria has the most experience against Keuchel, going 5-for-21 with two RBI. Hunter Pence is the only guy on the roster with a home run against him, and Nick Hundley is the only other guy with an extra base hit.
Staving off the Champs
The San Francisco Giants under-performed in the last three games of the Diamondbacks series, but more importantly, it was their starting pitchers that were a big concern.
Chris Stratton was sent down after his poor start on Friday, and Andrew Suarez‘s struggles were a bit alarming.
In the last series against Houston, Suarez struggled through four innings, essentially not giving the Giants a chance to come back. Jeff Samardzija struggled in the fifth inning and blew the one-run lead for the Giants in the second game, capping off a sweep.
The Giants pitching needs to find a way to keep the Astro’s offense at bay. This is especially true if their own offense is going to be MIA, as it was in the last series against the Astros.
Three runs in a two-game series is not going to cut it unless the pitching is mistake free — seems pretty obvious, right?
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And although they scored plenty on Thursday, those types of games are few and far between this season.
They continue to struggle with situational hitting, but there is a bright side to all of this. Andrew McCutchen, along with Longoria and Posey, are starting to drive this offense.
This is promising, but they need support from the rest of the lineup to make an impact. Solo home runs look pretty, and might even give the Giants a win, but more of these hits need to start coming with runners on.
The chances will likely be few and far between with the pitching staff the Astros throw out there, but they are not impervious to giving up runs.
Any series against a team like the Astros is going to be tough, and the Giants really are giving them their best starters.
A split seems like the most likely outcome for the Orange and Black, but they will need to work for it big time.
The Astros will be without their hard-hitting middle infielders, and the Giants need to take advantage of that. They also won’t see Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole, which should be a blessing in and of itself.
Provided the Giants can handle their own, this should be a fun series to watch. The Giants will get a day off after the series before they welcome the Pirates into town for a four-game set.