The San Francisco Giants returned home for three games with the Los Angeles Dodgers, first place in their division and the hottest hitting team in the bigs.
The Giants pitchers gave up zero runs in the 27 innings of the three games, and won 2-0, 4-0 and 4-0. By the time the Dodgers left, the Giants were but a game and a half behind them, in second place.
The starters pitched very well--the operative word being "pitched." Hudson, Lincecum and Bumgarner got into trouble in various innings, none of them was throwing overpowering stuff consistently, but they pitched their way out of tight spots, aided by superior fielding.
The Giants hit homers (a titanic blast by Posey, MadBum's shot that became the winning run in his game), had timely singles (including RBIs by Hunter Pence in his first games in San Francisco this season) and extra base hits, and also scored on hustle and base-running. It was a fun series to listen to, full of baseball drama and derring-do.
Now the Giants head back on the road, first stop Colorado where they've had their problems, battling the elevation and close-in fences, but the Rockies are rocky at the moment and the Giants have been out-powering teams used to busting fences. The pitchers will have to adjust, and it's an exhausting-sounding series, with the first game Friday and a double-header on Saturday.
Who are these guys? In the past two games--Friday and Saturday in Cincinnati--the San Francisco Giants scored a total of 21 runs, winning 10-2 and 11-2. Before last week they hadn't scored more than 7 runs in any one game. Their average was 3. And home runs were flying out of the park, including two by Brandon Belt--his first two of the season--and Brandon Crawford's fourth career grand slam.
Update: Make that 30 runs in three games, as the Giants prevailed in Cincy on Sunday 9-8, on Belt's THIRD home run in three games. Hunter Pence had his first homer of the season, on the second day of his season. But perhaps the most impressive moments were at the end of the game. The runfest had all the pitchers rattled, including Cincy's "unhittable" closer who had the bases loaded before he got the final out. In comes Casilla for the Giants in the last of the ninth--and retires the side on nine pitches, three strikeouts. The coolest relief appearance of the year.
On Saturday the Giants were further energized by the return of Hunter Pence. He'd come back earlier than expected from his tuneup in Sacramento where he hit two homers in three games. But big league pitching? In his first at bat he scorched a double, and flew around the bases to score on a single. He went 3 for 4 and scored three times.
The starting pitching was as good as it needed to be. Madison Bumgarner on Friday was not at his best but he stymied the Reds when they got men on base. Both starter Ryan Vogelsong and reliever Gene Machi had shaky moments on Saturday, too, but they also kept the Reds at bay. Three of the four Cincy runs in the two games came on solo homers.
These two games were so different in a giddy way that the radio announcers were talking tongue in cheek about remembering the old days when the games were decided by one run. Remember that? The outbreak of power on the road is what the Giants need. Everyone in the lineup is capable of hitting one out. But in the long run they need homers on the road in ordinary games to make up for less than perfect pitching, fielding and baserunning--and bad luck. This is a great start.
Brandon Belt is becoming the definition of a streaky hitter, and maybe that says something about the small difference between success and failure against today's pitching. A little better vision, a little different quickness or whatever.
Brandon Crawford's first major league hit in his career was a grand slam. Is he turning into an unlikely power hitter? He's leading the club in homers and RBIs, and that no longer seems so unusual.