The first three games of this four game series here at Wrigley Field feel very similar. Or as Yogi Berra once said, “It’s deja vu all over again.”
For the third straight game, the Giants’ starter (this time Matt Cain, 2-3, 5.59) lasted only four innings, gave up a run in the first inning, and the Giants had to battle from behind for most of the game, losing this one 8-6. To the team’s credit, they’ve hung in there in every game, never giving up, a characteristic we’ve come to expect from the G-men in the Bruce Bochy era.
This was Cain’s seventh start of the season, since returning from season-ending arm surgery in 2014. With an ERA of 5.59 and especially with a WHIP of 1.59 (career WHIP is 1.18), concern is starting to creep in within the organization and fan base. Will Matty be able to return to form in 2015? Or ever? Cain asserted that he felt fine and had good stuff, which Boch supported. “It’s just making more pitches when I need to,” Cain said. But Brandon Crawford’s assessment might be more candid: “He doesn’t look the same as he has in the past. He’s just not quite as sharp with all his pitches.”
With the loss, the Giants remained three games behind Los Angeles for first place in the NL West, as the Dodgers lost again to the Pirates. However, with their third straight loss to the Cubs, the G-men now trail Chicago by 2 ½ games for the final wild card spot in the National League.
The starting pitching has faltered in this series (Giants starters have combined for a 9.75 ERA, 13 earned runs over 12 innings), and the offense has not been there to pick them up. While 13 runs over three games doesn’t seem too bad for this offense, the team has only tallied just 22 hits in the three games, which has limited run-scoring opportunities. With 1034 hits this season, second in all of MLB, the Giants are averaging 9.4 hits every game.We’ve gotten accustomed to the Giants reaching double-digit hit totals, especially on the road where they average 9.8 hits per game and lead MLB.
Brandon Belt hit his 15th home run, a two run shot, in the second inning to briefly put the Giants ahead 2-1. But that would be his only hit of the day. Hunter Pence went 2 for 3 and scored two runs, but both hits were singles. Brandon Crawford went 2 for 4 with a double, run scored and RBI, and Angel Pagan and Nori Aoki each knocked in one run with one hit each. That was the extend of the offense, as the Giants managed a series-high nine hits in the loss.
Despite the fact that Cain gave up five runs in just four innings on six hits and five walks, the most damaging pitching effort came from Santiago Casilla. He entered the eighth inning with the Giants still in striking distance, down just 5-3. Casilla proceeded to allow three runs on two hits and a walk, getting only one out in the inning. Javier Lopez was called on to close out the threat, but the inning ended with the Giants behind 8-3 heading into the final frame. “That’s a big inning,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I don’t know if Casilla wasn’t focused, but we were trying to keep it within two.” Santiago’s ERA rose to 3.89 and he hasn’t been the dominant pitcher we’ve seen over the past five years. Casilla’s WHIP this year is 1.50, vs. a career WHIP of 1.31. Most concerning is his trend over the past 15 games, with an ERA of 7.94 and WHIP of 2.12. Last year, Casilla’s WHIP was 0.86 and hitters posted a batting average of just .177 against him. This year, opposing batters are hitting .270 against him. What’s wrong with Santiago? Is he on the verge of losing his closer’s role?
The Giants wrap up this four game series and road trip this afternoon, hoping to salvage one win. This month will likely determine the Giants’ post-season fate, as the next 21 games to close out August are all against teams positioned to be likely participants in the 2015 playoffs. The G-men have just two off days the rest of the month, tomorrow being the first of the two. Starting Tuesday at home against Houston, they’ll play games 20 out of 21 days to close the month.
Today’s game will feature Jake Peavy (2-4, 3.77) against Jake Arietta (12-6, 2.50). Arietta is 6-1, 1.37 over his last nine starts and 1-1, 3.46 against the Giants in two career starts. Peavy has pitched very well in his last three starts, going six innings in each and allowing a total of just five earned runs in the 18 innings.