Before Thursday night's game, the San Francisco Giants were shut out twice in three games. In the game they won between, they scored only three runs.
On Thursday, they scored three runs again, and won again, beating Washington 3-1 behind magnificent pitching, which is the only way scoring just three runs is going to get you wins.
The Giants wasted an excellent start by Chris Heston Wednesday but not an ultimately excellent start by Ryan Vogelsong Thursday night, who struck out eight in five innings. The bullpen was even better: two terrific innings by Hunter Strickland, one very sharp inning by Sergio Romo, and a final inning with the dramatic uncertainty that's become all too prevalent with closer Casilla. All together, Giants pitchers struck out 14, all (as Mike Krukow pointed out) by swinging strikes.
Note some of the names that get game balls: Vogelsong, who lost his spot in the starting rotation through no fault of his own; Gregor Blanco, the utility and these days starting outfielder whose first inning triple got the Giants back on track, rookie Matt Duffy and very rookie Tomlinson (also a triple), as well as Posey who is having an amazing late summer.
The Giants need heroics from players like these if they are to get through the month even or better. Aoki was placed on the 7 day concussion DL, so that's two starting outfielders on the DL (and the only starter, Hunter Pence, is slumping.) The linchpin of the infield and the batting lineup, Joe Panik, is out. Meanwhile, Washington is fighting for its playoff life for the next 3 games at SF, and in the Giants near future there's a road trip to St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
Elsewhere, the Pirates got one of three in St. Louis (losing ground in the division but enough to keep them firmly at Wild Card #1), and the Cubs and Mets stay hot. The remaining schedule tends to favor the Cubs and Mets continuing to win, but the Giants schedule is pretty tough. So the possibility of the Giants backing into a second Wild Card slot is fading fast.
So the Giants' best chance may be the division. The Dodger bullpen that got scorched in Pittsburgh, got scorched at home on Thursday by the Reds. Their big trade, Matt Latos, again got shelled, and was loudly booed at his new home park. The Dodgers always seem capable of imploding, and they are on the edge of it now.
The Giants are 2.5 back, which is within striking distance if they can maintain that margin through the month. It will take games with heroics like tonight to do so.
It will also help to have the acknowledged best manager in baseball. Bochy reconfigured his lineup on Thursday, with Blanco leading off and Belt moved up to third, and it worked.
But it won't be easy--starting Friday, with what was once a marquee matchup but these days has Giants fans awfully nervous--Scherzer against Cain.
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