The Giants beat Philadelphia yesterday afternoon 4-2, with a four-run fourth inning fueled by a three-run homer by catcher Andrew Susac, his third of the year.
Rookie starter Chris Heston (9-5, 3.39) delivered his fourth consecutive quality start in picking up his ninth win. Heston went 6 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and just one run, while allowing no walks and striking out seven. With that, the Giants won their third straight and fourth out of their last five, finishing the first half at 46-43, good for second place in the NL West, 4 1/2 games behind Los Angeles.
In sweeping the Phillies, the Giants outscored the worst team in baseball 27-9. The offensive resurgence coincided with the reemergence of Angel Pagan’s bat, as he went 7 for 15 with four RBIs and four runs scored in the series.
Buster Posey also feasted on Phillies’ pitching, going 8 for 13 in the series. The Giants finished the first half ranked second in the National League in batting average (.271), and third in runs scored.
It appears that this Giants’ offense, if they can remain healthy, has enough firepower to make a long playoff run again. If Brian Sabean is looking to make a move before the trading deadline, he’s probably looking at strengthening the bench, particularly at the outfield position where the team has been vulnerable. Starters Nori Aoki, Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence have all spent time on the disabled list this year and Justin Maxwell is hitting just .217 as Hunter Pence’s primary backup.
Giants’ pitching remains a bit of a question mark, as injuries have also taken a toll. Four Giants’ starters have spent time on the disabled list (Matt Cain, Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson, and Tim Lincecum). Reliever Jeremy Affeldt enters the All-Star break on the disabled list and several relievers have looked shaky in recent weeks including Sergio Romo (0-4, 5.19), Gene Machi (1-0, 4.98), and Santiago Casilla (4-2, 3.34, 23 saves, 4 blown saves). Recently called up from Triple-A Sacramento, Josh Osich has pitched extremely well in the role previously occupied by Jeremy Affeldt, appearing in six games, allowing no runs over 5 1/3 innings, striking out four.
The Giants’ one-two starters are solid (Madison Bumgarner and Heston), with nine wins a piece. It gets a little iffy after that, but Matt Cain and Jake Peavy look good early on after returning from the DL. With Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum due to return from the DL soon after the All-Star break, Manager Bruce Bochy will have a decision to make about starter Ryan Vogelsong’s role. Look for Vogey to move to the bullpen to make room for Huddy in the starting rotation. Boch has already stated that Lincecum will move to the bullpen, so Gene Machi shouldn’t feel too comfortable heading into the break. Overall, Giants’ pitching ranks eighth in the NL in ERA (3.82) and seventh in batting average against (.250).
Overall, in the humble opinion of this blogger and fan, the Giants are poised and well-positioned to make the playoffs again and thrive. Their experience, leadership, and talent are definitely a strength and intangible. However, they aren’t deep enough offensively or defensively to sustain an injury to key starters, so staying healthy down the stretch could determine their fate. Competition is also fierce this year in the NL, with the Dodgers, Cardinals, Nationals, Cubs, and Pirates all looking to unseat the World Champions.
It’s been a tiring stretch over the past two months for the G-men due to unfavorable scheduling by the league, and the four day break should do the team well. The Giants will be represented in Tuesday’s All-Star game by Buster Posey (starting catcher), Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Madison Bumgarner.