5 Things the San Francisco Giants Must Do to Take the NL West Lead
The last time the San Francisco Giants hosted the Texas Rangers at AT&T Park was in Game 2 of the 2010 World Series; Matt Cain silenced the Rangers' bats in a 9-0 victory. The Rangers return this weekend for an interleague battle that might be a 2012 World Series preview.
The Rangers are 0-11 in their history at AT&T Park, including the first two games of the 2010 World Series. That stat shouldn’t phase their lethal lineup.
The Giants have been hot to start June, going 6-1 and just finishing with two wins at Petco Park in San Diego. Four out of the five Giants' starters are on cruise control and the offense is definitely starting to pick up. The Giants are still in second place though.
However, there are a few tweaks the Giants must make in order to take the lead from the rival Dodgers. Here is a look at each of the five:
1) Stop Telling Us Tim Lincecum Threw the Best He Has All Year
Timmy might look great the rest of the game, but the one inning is his Achilles heel and it is literally killing the Giants. The Giants have lost the last seven games he has started and are 2-10 in all of his starts this year.
Lincecum’s earned run average (ERA) has basically stayed the same since his one dominant outing against the San Diego Padres on April 28th (8 IP, 0 ER). After that masterful performance, he lowered his ERA to 5.74. After his 12th start, his ERA stands at 5.83.
The short answer is that he needs to sharpen his focus and figure out how to control the problem. If he can dominate for six or seven innings every game, why can’t he hold it together during a three-out span? He needs to walk around the mound, talk to Buster Posey or do something to clear his mind.
Timmy is or was the staff ace. It is time for him to pitch like one.
2) Have a Man-to-Man Talk with Pablo Sandoval
Pablo Sandoval is the Kung Fu Panda. He is one of the Giants' only home run threats and proven run producers. But recent events have put Sandoval under a big microscope.
Sandoval led the Giants in home runs and a variety of other statistics when he broke his other hamate bone. During his disabled list stint, he has gained weight and is being investigated in an alleged sexual assault.
Sandoval has had a positive attitude during that time and has already met with Bruce Bochy. But he needs to have a serious sit down with Bochy and the Giants brass to let them know he is serious about his career.
We saw in 2010 what distractions do to Sandoval’s production. He had hit .345 (2008) and .330 (2009) in the years preceding, but because of his divorce and conditioning, he hit only .268 in 2010.
He resumed his productivity last year, primarily because of his better preseason conditioning, and had gotten off to a hot start this year before the hamate bone break. He should return this coming Tuesday, June 12th versus the Astros.
3) Give the 2nd Base Position to Ryan Theriot
The Giants have publicly said Ryan Theriot is their new second baseman. Theriot has been on fire since his return from the disabled list. Yes, it helped to have his former team (Chicago Cubs) in town to get his bat back in form.
Theriot has proven he can play defense and is thriving at the plate. He was batting .179 when he went on the DL, and after Thursday's game he is now batting .284. He has five multi-hit games in the last eight games played.
Joaquin Arias can spell Theriot once in a while at second, while Manny Burriss can still be used as a late-game pinch-runner.
Ride Theriot while he is hot and make adjustments as they come. The Giants can look into the trade market after the All-Star break if needed and see if anything makes sense.
4) Make Better Use of Nate Schierholtz
Nate “the Great” has a phenomenal arm in right field and can hit for occasional power, but he's a very hot and cold player. When he's on, he can provide clutch hits and be on base after almost every at bat. When he's cold, he just looks lost at the plate.
His mental mistake against the Dodgers where he got caught off second base gave Gregor Blanco the opportunity to take his spot in right field. Since then, Nate has been a pinch hitter with a few spot starts. His average has dropped from .280 to .245 since his benching.
Since the outfield is now settled, Nate would probably be better off in a different situation. The Giants can trade him after the All-Star break for a key reliever or infielder; however, he will probably remain to provide bench depth.
5) Fix the Bullpen
The bullpen has had a lot of injuries in the past week. Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo both hurt their legs and put the already taxed bullpen on alert.
Losing Brian Wilson to injury and Guillermo Mota to the suspension has hurt, since the Giants have have had to rely on younger relievers like Shane Loux and the struggling and recently demoted Steve Edlefsen.
Dan Runzler will be beginning a rehab assignment in Single-A San Jose, so they will have one more arm available. The young arms need experience, but at the moment they aren’t getting the job done.
Giants starters saved the bullpen recently by pitching at least seven innings in seven games. The young relievers must mature quickly or Romo, Affeldt and Hensley will be overworked.
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