The San Francisco Giants started the season 42-21 and had the best record through the first 63 games of the season. Then came hard times; they’ve only won 7 of their last 25. There’s been drastic differences between the two stretches. These two stretches have certainly created confusion for people as to just who this Giants team really is. Are they the team that started 42-21 or are they a team that will continue to lose 18 out of 25 games. Or maybe there’s a middle ground that they will settle on.
The Giants first stretch of the season was masterful. They couldn’t do anything wrong. They scored runs, bullpen was spectacular and the starters were just good enough. The team was coming back once they fell behind. They, at one point, were hitting better than 280 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, and had something that was prominent in the Giants early season success, the home run ball. Watching this team the first two months of the season certainly gave everybody associated with the Giants the vibe that this could be our year again. It seemed to be true, through April and May.
Now, ever since June 8 the Giants have gone on a significant slide which saw them lose a 9.5 game lead in 22 days, which to this day is the shortest time a baseball team has taken to give up a lead of that many games. It’s not like the Dodgers are playing that well; they are playing good, but the Giants have been terrible, which is the bigger story. Most of the Giants terrible play can be attributed to one of their most important players, Angel Pagan, being out with a bulging disk in his back. They started losing before he got injured, but that injury compounded the other issues they were having.
Pagan missing time certainly is a factor for the team’s lack of success recently. However, they still have enough talent to compensate for injuries, but haven’t done well enough while Pagan’s been out. Another factor to the slide was Brandon Belt’s injury. Belt wasn’t necessarily hitting for a high average, but his power 9 homers in 36 games was something that allowed the Giants to have the success they had early in the season. The Giants home runs disappeared after Belt got injured. Having those two out forced the Giants to play utility/back-up infielders, or fourth/fifth outfielders instead of the normal starters.
The Giants certainly are in a dilemma. They are in a situation where General Manager Brian Sabean is saying that he can’t just snap his fingers and fix the problem. He’s saying that the players on the field have to show that they are capable of winning. That makes sense, considering the Giants farm system is not that strong and mortgaging your future for a player or two who might not help you win this year would be risky.
However, things could potentially be turning around for the Giants at just about the right time. The Giants are coming off their first series win in over a month, thanks in large part to timely bombs by Michael Morse and Belt and a Brandon Crawford game-saving play on Saturday. Then Tim Lincecum dealing for the third straight time. The Giants played with emotion the last two games, something that they missed for the last month while they were in their June swoon.
As bad as the Giants have been they are still ahead of the Dodgers in the loss column and only a half game behind them in the standings. The Giants are in the perfect position. They haven’t reached their potential yet and the Dodgers are pretty much the team they are going to be in two months barring them making some drastic moves. Assuming the team plays with emotion and the starting staff continues to pitch the way they have the last 10 games, the Giants should turn things around.
Certainly things will change if Pagan doesn’t come back. He’s one of the Giants most important player and they need him. However, the Giants could have found a temporary leadoff hitter in All-Star Hunter Pence. He’s provided a spark that the team has missed since Pagan went out.
The biggest test for the Giants to show if they are truly back comes tonight when they take on the team with the best record in baseball, Bay Area rivals the Oakland Athletics. If the Giants can fair well in that series without Pagan, it will give them the kind of confidence needed going into the All-Star break. We will find out a lot about this team over the next week.