The San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 4-1 on Friday night, and moved into first place in their division for the first time this year. Before that run was scored, they tied a club record for consecutive scoreless innings. It was their 13th victory in the last 15 games. Tim Hudson, facing the team that let him go to the Giants for the first time since, got the win.
In the stands for this home game was Willy Mays, and also the NBA MVP Steph Curry of the NBA championship series-bound Golden State Warriors (above photo), with their home across the bay.
Curry's buddy (and fellow MVP) Buster Posey hit a two run homer in the first and knocked in a third run with a double in the eighth, which is getting to be the Giants' favorite inning, especially with teams like the Braves that have good starting pitching but undependable bullpens.
Speaking of Golden State, their championship run hit a snag with the news that star Klay Thompson is uncertain for the finals with a concussion. They start next week. Cleveland is also banged up, but Thompson is a key to GS's offense, and facing the offense of James it's a big loss.
While I'm on other sports, the NFL recently made a change in extra points, to make them more "competitive." The upshot of the change is that players will risk injury on extra-point plays now, which in this concussion-conscious time is tone deaf to say the least, and reprehensible altogether. They should be reducing plays (like kickoffs) that create violent contact and otherwise look at sweeping changes (like the size of the field) that will address the concussion issue, or they will wind up with no players coming up (school teams are already feeling the parental boycott) except those who are so poor that they will risk mutilation in order to make money. Welcome to the Roman Empire.
The San Francisco Giants survived the exhaustion challenge of 4 games in 3 days plus hours of rain delays in the thin air of Colorado including a long evening game before a day game in Milwaukee--and will return with no less than a 4-3 trip, with a good chance to get tomorrow's day game and come back with a 5-2 road trip. Update 5/28: That's just what they did--a late inning rally gave them a sweep in Milwaukee and a 5-2 road trip. And first game at home a shutout (fourth in a row at home) by Chris Heston plus relievers, another breakout 8th inning rally for a 7-0 victory over Atlanta, my favorite team to beat. Hunter Strickland, brought up for the double-header, has stayed with the team and has yet to give up a run, and maybe not even a hit in several relieving stints. He's added new pitches to his blazing fastball. Out of their last 14 games, the Giants have won 12.
Overall the Giants won 8 straight, then lost two, and that was another test--how for real are they, or will they lose 6 or 8 in a row as they were doing in April? They won the next two, with lots of hitting and adequate pitching, plus clutch plays in the field. Winning 10 of 12 both at home and away, that's for real.
Meanwhile the Pittsburgh Pirates have won 5 straight, featuring three straight in which their pitchers got double-digit strikeouts. Andrew McCuctchen has come around to the extent that he was a National League player of the week.
So in recent days, baseball very very good to me.
During this run the Giants officially made young Matt Duffy their starting third baseman. Duffy and Panik are two young players who give off great vibes, and they fit so well with the modest professionalism of Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey. With Hunter Pence for flamboyance and MadBum for being MadBum, this is an appealing team. And as the announcers pointed out today, most of the team either has Bay Area ties (grew up there, school, family, teams) or are confirmed San Franciscans. So it's easy to like this team, especially (of course) when they are winning. And is anybody really missing the Panda?
Brandon Crawford in particular is off to a great start with so many key hits and RBIs, solid fielding and spectacular plays like today when he might well have saved the victory by laying out for a line drive headed to hitville. Speaking of Brandons, Belt hit another monster home run. Right now most of the starting lineup is hitting around .300. The Giants often have good or a very good first half of the season (as they did last year), but seems to me in the past they've been carried for the first months by one or two guys. They've turned things around from April and have momentum going into June, all through the lineup.
They passed a test of stamina with this ridiculous holiday weekend road trip. The bigger test will come in the dog days after the All Star break. Last year they were a great team the first half, and a really mediocre one the second half, until the playoffs. I'll try not to anticipate and just enjoy this good baseball while it's on my radio.
With this weekend's win, Lincecum became the third winningest pitcher in Giants history. And though I didn't hear anyone mention it, I believe today's game ended Buster Posey's hitting streak at 18, although it took a play almost as good as Crawford's to do it.