Thursday, June 23, 2016

Giants On Top

The Giants in Pittsburgh.  John Miller describing the evening sun lighting downtown, Dave Fleming describing the fans streaming over the Clemente bridge, and so on.  Heavy nostalgia for me, even if I've only been in that particular ballpark a couple of times.

After sweeping the Rays in Tampa, the Giants won three of four in Pittsburgh.  The one they lost--the first game--was the weirdest, as it was Madison Bumgarner pitching eight innings and giving up one run on a homer that just got over the outstretched glove of Angel Pagan in left.  But the Giants scored nada and lost.

The remaining games showcased the Pirates pitching woes and a suddenly unhittable Giants bullpen.  A 15-4 blowout, mostly against the Pirates relievers, followed by a come from behind 7-6 win, again mostly on the Pirates relievers, and in the second-weirdest game, the Giants rookies beat the Pirates 5-3.

 Mac Williamson had himself a couple of games after being called up to take Duffy's DL roster spot, including a titanic home run (460 feet or so), making it less likely that he'll be the guy sent back down next time a starter comes back on the roster. (Though Jarrett Parker is also playing well, and hitting.) Two rookies, Ramiro Pena and Conor Gillaspe, played short and third Thursday, and split third in other games, in the absence of injured Matt Duffy.  Both hit well, with Pena being the bigger surprise, showing RBI power.

Joe Panik has gotten hot finally, and was instrumental in all 3 wins in Pittsburgh.  Johnny Cueto won his 11th game, keeping pace with the league leaders, in that 15-4 bash.  Angel Pagan hit a grand slam, Gillaspe had four hits that included a homer, and Blanco was on base five times.

So while the Dodgers went on a six game win streak, the Giants won five out of six on their road trip, and the Dodgers picked up nada on them in the standings.  On Thursday the Giants went 20 games over .500, and are tied for the most wins in baseball with the Cubs and the Rangers (both of which have lost fewer games, however.)

Meanwhile the Pirates are in desperate shape.  They are still home run threats--as the Giants saw--and they have a great defensive outfield, and at times a terrific overall defense.  But key players are injured or are just coming back.  They're 14 games out of first, which doesn't bode well for contending this year.  The Cubs are running away with the division so far, 9 games ahead of St. Louis, so for a change the wild card might not come out of this division this year.

Now the Giants come home, and we'll see how resilient the rooks are.  To survive with starters Pence and Duffy, prime infield and even outfield backup Kelby Tomlinson, reliever Romo and starter Matt Cain all on the DL (with only Romo likely to be back before the All-Star break), the rooks are going to have to play above their pay grade.  And Bochy has to remain successful with his orchestration of the bullpen.

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