San Francisco Giants: Impact of Homer Bailey's No-Hitter on the Team

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San Francisco Giants: Impact of Homer Bailey's No-Hitter on the Team
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Reds starting pitcher threw his second career no-hitter against the Giants on Tuesday.

It is official: The San Francisco Giants have hit rock bottom.

Two days removed from the month of June, which has historically seen plenty of Giants "swoons" emanating back to the days at Candlestick Park, the 2013 Giants have carried this year's June swoon into July.

Indeed, June was a bad month for the Giants. San Francisco went 10-17 and was tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for an MLB-low 16 wins since May 14. 

During the same stretch, their National League West division rivals have all seemed to turn it up a notch.

Simply stated, San Francisco was floundering while the rest of the division was finding ways to win. 

Naturally, the Giants were eager to put the month of June behind them and enter July with the prospects of rediscovering their winning ways.

Yet they did not—and it all came crashing down on July 2. 

One day removed from an embarrassing 8-1 rain-shortened loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, the Giants were summarily no-hit by Reds pitcher Homer Bailey on Tuesday, with the only blemish on his pitching performance coming from a walk to Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco in the top of the seventh inning.

The no-hit loss, combined with the Los Angeles Dodgers win over Colorado, placed the Giants last in the division for the first time since Opening Day. San Francisco is now a season-low five games below the .500 mark. 

What a way to be forced into last place.

Last night's game, combined with San Francisco's recent struggles, begs the question: What is wrong with the 2013 Giants?

In some ways, the struggles appear similar to those the Giants endured after their 2010 World Series championship. 

In 2011, San Francisco appeared to have a World Series "hangover" of sorts. Their offense endured nearly a season-long slump, and the Giants struggled to keep pace in the division, eventually losing out to the Arizona Diamondbacks for the National League West crown. 

Yet in 2011, San Francisco's pitching and defense were still well above par and at least kept it competitive.

Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY S
Shortstop Brandon Crawford is one of many Giants who are struggling offensively.

In 2013, one year removed from their 2012 championship, the offense has again gone stale.

The major difference, however, is that both the pitching and defense have also struggled, unquestionably contributing to the Giants' recent fall from grace.

Maggie Pilloton of Golden Gate Sports feels that the primary reason behind the Giants' struggles has been fatigue, much like it was back in 2011. She writes:

The San Francisco Giants are tired. They aren’t just physically tired; they’re also mentally tired. After playing a total of 178 games last season, the Giants had a shortened offseason and less time to recover, both mentally and physically, before this season. It just seems as if the long 2012 season is starting to catch up with them in terms of mental mistakes, fatigue, and injuries.

Fortunately, San Francisco's pitching staff has shown signs of righting the ship at points. 

Recent outings by pitchers Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have given the Giants rotation some hope. Even Tim Lincecum, who took the loss in last night's game, pitched fairly well, giving up three runs over 5.1 innings.

In addition, San Francisco can expect the eventual returns of pitchers Chad Gaudin, Santiago Casilla and starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong in the days and weeks to come.

Yet the major problem in San Francisco has been the offense. Aside from contributions from players like Marco Scutaro, Hunter Pence and Buster Posey, the Giants have gotten virtually nothing from the remainder of the offense. They've scored two or fewer runs in nine of their last 12 games and are batting .193 in the last eight games they've played.

Blanco is struggling, as is fellow outfielder Andres Torres. First baseman Brandon Belt is streaky, and shortstop Brandon Crawford is slumping.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval, perhaps again affected by his increasing weight, has also been mired in a slump. 

Three of those Giants entered Tuesday's game riding long hitless streaks. Blanco is hitless in his last 13 at-bats, while Crawford is 0-for-15 and Sandoval is 0-for-18. 

Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area notes that Sandoval has been the biggest offensive disappointment for the Giants thus far.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Pablo Sandoval's 2013 struggles have highlighted the team's offensive woes thus far.

As reported by Ian McCue of MLB.com, Giants manager Bruce Bochy feels that San Francisco's offensive struggles have been due in large part to being overaggressive at the plate. 

Bochy elaborates by stating that such habits can be contagious, especially when the team is in the midst of an offensive slump.

All of that came to a head during Bailey's no-hitter.

Make no mistake about it, Bailey earned the accolade. His no-hitter was the second the 27-year-old right-hander has pitched in the last two seasons. Bailey has the stuff to throw another one before his career is over. 

Yet if he had to pick a team to face to record one this season, the offensively challenged Giants would have been the perfect option.

Bochy recognized the significance of Bailey's performance in combination with their recent woes. After the game he said, via Chris Haft of MLB.com:

"We're sputtering offensively. You'd like to think, 'Hopefully this is rock bottom.' We have some guys really struggling at the plate right now. You just hope this is as low as it gets."

Hopefully Bochy is right. 

There is something about being no-hit over the course of a season. 

The rare feat can reveal elements of the team that put up a zero in the hit column. For the Giants, it highlights the fact that their offense is indeed at rock bottom. It shows them that they have deserved earning last place in the division.

On the other hand, the no-hitter may also be the shot-in-the-arm that the Giants need to climb out of this funk. 

Perhaps it will provide the motivation for San Francisco's hitters to do a much better job at the plate.  This may mean returning to the fundamentals: patience at the plate, situational hitting and productive at-bats.

Furthermore, all is not lost in San Francisco. 

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Giants manager Bruce Bochy feels that his team is pressing too much at the plate.

While this may be the low point for the Giants this year, San Francisco remains only three games out of first place in the division. For a team that is five games under .500, a weak division is a blessing. 

Division-leading Arizona has a solid lineup, yet its starting rotation has four pitchers with ERAs over 4.20. The Colorado Rockies have significant holes in their team, as do the San Diego Padres. Even the Dodgers, who have played well as of late, may be due for a second-half regression.

Combine that with the fact that the Giants will be getting help as the season comes along.

Injured leadoff hitter Angel Pagan should make his return to the club from a hamstring injury in September; a number of the aforementioned pitchers will also be returning soon as well.

In addition, San Francisco may be inclined to make an acquisition or two as the trading deadline draws near. 

According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, it's rumored the Giants are interested in trading for Miami Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco

When one looks at the current Giants situation with those elements, last night's game may be a blessing in disguise. 

Sure, getting no-hit is nothing worth bragging about. Yet it may provide the motivation necessary for the Giants to climb out of the cellar. 

In addition, when one examines the situation San Francisco finds itself in, despite its recent woes, a division championship is still up for grabs.

For the Giants, hopefully last night's game will be defined as the turning point en route to another playoff push. 

 

All player and team statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

 

Peter Panacy is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report covering the San Francisco 49ers and other Bay Area sports teams. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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