San Francisco Giants: The National League's Surprise Best-Hitting Team

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 13, 2012

August 7, 2012; St. Louis, MO. USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) hits a three run home run in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Surprise! The San Francisco Giants currently boast the National League's best set of bats—for the month of August, at least.

Even though we're still less than halfway through the month, the Giants' suddenly red-hot hitting deserves some attention. After all, they were near the bottom of the NL in hitting in July, with an ugly .693 team OPS. But things changed once the calendar flipped.

Behind Buster Posey, baseball's best hitter since the All-Star Break, the Giants have an NL-best OPS of .814 in August. The acquisition of Marco Scutaro—owner of a tidy .313 average as a Giant—and the rebirth of Angel Pagan, whose .996 OPS in 53 August plate appearances has ignited the top of the order, have turned San Francisco's offense into a very dangerous unit.

Go down the lineup's August splits and the hits just keep on coming. Brandon Belt has come out of his slump to hit .464 in August with a 12.5 percent walk rate. Melky Cabrera has continued his torrid season, amassing seven extra-base hits in just two weeks. Heck, even the ice-cold Hunter Pence showed up on Sunday, cranking a go-ahead three-run homer against Colorado.

Critics will be quick to point out that this is obviously a small sample size. Plus the month of August has featured six games against the lowly Colorado Rockies—including three contests at Coors Field. But the Giants also put up 15 runs in a shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals, who boast a legitimately good pitching staff.

The Giants certainly won't continue to stay as hot as they are, but there's no reason to think they'll cool down to their July levels. With Pablo Sandoval due to return either Monday or Tuesday, the lineup will get a monstrous boost; Sandoval will force one of the Giants' light-hitting middle infielders to the pine. Either Ryan Theriot or Brandon Crawford will give way to Marco Scutaro's superior bat when the Panda forces Scutaro off of the hot corner.

So, Sandoval's bat will help ease any regression from the rest of the lineup.

It will be especially critical for the Giants' hot hitters to continue their current trends during this week's series against the NL East-leading Washington Nationals. The Nats boast baseball's best pitching staff, and the Giants will see all three of their aces, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle:

The Giants will need all the firepower they can get as they face the top three starters for the majors' best pitching staff. In fact, four of the 11 pitchers who rank among the top 10 in National League ERA will appear in the series.

Madison Bumgarner (tied for 10th with Cole Hamels) will face Jordan Zimmermann on Tuesday. Zimmermann is second in the league behind Ryan Vogelsong.

Vogelsong faces Gio Gonzalez in Monday's series opener, and Tim Lincecum takes on Stephen Strasburg (seventh) on Wednesday in the marquee matchup, at least by Q-rating.

The Washington series will be a huge test for the Giants and their suddenly potent bats. If they can hit enough to take the series against Washington, you can all but punch San Francisco's playoff ticket.