Last season, the San Francisco Giants were four games ahead of Arizona on July 29 when they traded for the best bat on the market, Carlos Beltran. What followed was a blurry meltdown. The Giants went 6-16 over their next 22 games. Beltran was hitting .222 as a Giant before going on the DL. By August 20, the Giants were 3.5 games out of first, and two weeks later, seven games out. Beltran was not pursued in the offseason.
Fast forward to this year. The Giants were up two games on the Dodgers when rumors started floating about Hunter Pence making the move to San Francisco. With Pence suited up, they promptly lost six of seven, bringing back that oh-so-familiar feeling. Pence has been completely irrelevant, with only four hits in 32 plate appearances.
So how can this season turn out differently? For starters, there is nobody named Eli Whiteside or Chris Stewart on the roster. Instead, the Giants upgraded to baseball's hottest hitter in Buster Posey. Also, the Dodgers haven't exactly been putting the pressure on, only going 12-12 since the All-Star break.
The 2011 Giants fell out of the race because the whole lineup stunk up the joint. They scored about seven runs over their last 40 games. Here are five players whose performance over the last seven weeks 2012 will determine the Giants' fate in this three-team NL West race.