It's been a very good week for the San Francisco Giants. They swept their seven game road trip, for the first time since 1913, ending it with an 8 game winning streak overall. Meanwhile the Dodgers were losing, and the Giants go home in first place, 3.5 games ahead.
But the best news for the Giants continued to be starting pitching. After Peavy and Cain had their best outings, the Big Three at the top of the rotation came within an inning of three complete game victories in a row over the Padres in San Diego. Bumgarner and Cueto got them, and Samardzija got his victory with 8 strong innings pitched. And again, the Giants scored just enough runs to win, usually on the back of a single home run: Crawford on Tuesday, Pence on Wednesday, Crawford again on Thursday.
Things may be a little different at home, though. They host the extremely hot Cubs for three, and match up the end of their rotation with the top of Chicago's. But Jake Peavy against one of the 2 or 3 best, if not the best pitchers this year--Jake Arieta--should provide some extra motivation for the Giants.
As suggested here last time, the Golden State Warriors went into the Western Conference Finals a little beat up, especially an ineffective Andrew Bogut, and lost a close one to the Oklahoma Thunder in the first game. The Dubs righted the ship on Wednesday, however, with one of their patented third quarter blowouts that the bench maintained in the fourth. Steph Curry found a new way to amaze by scoring 15 third quarter points in just over two minutes.
I don't know if it was by design, but that third quarter blitz--the great defense, the unstoppable Curry (who had an 8 point flurry late in the first half, but was relatively quiet the rest of the game)--not only added to their lead but took away the kind of run that Durant and Westbrook had in the first game's third quarter.
Bogut still looked hurt but Festus Ezeli had a very good game, and looks like a good match-up against the Thunder. Best of all, the Warriors found ways to execute their ball movement offense despite the long-limbed defense of the Thunder. They also found their own defense and rebounding, and the second unit played more and better--all good signs. The series could still go 7 but the Warriors in 6 wouldn't surprise me.
The San Francisco Giants went to Arizona for four games, scored a total of 14 runs including three games of four and under--- and swept the series. That made five wins in a row, and put them in first place.
They scattered a home run in each game (two by Panik, one by Pence and one by Trevor Brown) but the big story was starting pitching--not only excellent performances by Cueto and Samardzija but very good innings by Jake Peavy and Matt Cain, each of whom gave up only one run, though neither got a win. They are beginning to justify Bochy's faith in them through the rough early season.
The Giants still weren't hitting much, and even less with runners on base. Their defense improved, and despite giving up leads, the relief pitchers ultimately got wins and saves. But the nature of these games--low-scoring, not many hits---in Arizona's hitter-friendly park was pretty strange.
Meanwhile the Pirates salvaged one game of their 3 game series with the Cubs, the hottest team in baseball. They spoiled a no-hitter by Lester and won 2-1 behind Cole.
So the Western Conference NBA finals begin Monday, with a different matchup than expected: it's Golden State against the Oklahoma Thunder (and so San Antonio's stellar regular season, largely unnoticed anyway, goes into the forgotten bin.) In some ways it's tougher for the Dubs, with two monsters to contend with, Westbrook and Durant, both playing at a high level in the playoffs. The Warriors may also lack a key player, Andrew Bogut, at least for the first game. With Draymond Green a bit banged up and Steph Curry not 100%, the start could be rocky. This series could easily go six or seven. But the Warriors have the upper hand.