If the San Francisco Giants fail to reach the playoffs, it won't be due to below average play at AT&T Park. In fact, the Giants hold the best home record in the entire MLB but yet still find themselves eight games back of the division leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Being practically unbeatable at home but yet still nowhere near first place can only mean one thing—their road record must be horrendous. And a 21-32 mark away from AT&T is nothing to call home about.
Now going into Houston for a three game trip, the Giants were prime to turn things around. The orange and black had just concluded a 6-1 home stand where they took three of four games from the defending World Series Champion Phillies.
Plus, with All-Star Matt Cain on the mound, the Giants looked to be in good shape in Monday's series opener in Houston. However, unfortunately for Giants fans, the offense remembered why it is still the worst in baseball.
The Giants offense mustered just three runs in support of Cain, and if "MattyC" ever needed some extra runs, it was on Monday when he pitched in the ban box that is Minute Maid Park.
Despite throwing a complete game, Cain gave up four runs and took the loss. Unlike his last few dominating outings, Cain did struggle a bit but kept his club in the game. But the offense didn't come through and his manager also left him out to dry.
The 4-3 final score was a major stinger for the Giants because they were only down 3-2 going into the bottom of the eighth. But with two outs and nobody on, Houston's Hunter Pence tripled into right center field.
The following hitter would be none other than Carlos Lee, and even though Miguel Tejada was on deck, (and carrying an 0-3 going into his final at-bat) the Giants decided to pitch to the Astros' slugger. The result ended up as base hit to right field to double the lead. But the fact that the Giants even pitched to Lee is beyond me.
Houston's left fielder had hit a rocket fly out to deep center in the first, and later hit a scorching double off the left field wall and was 2-3 going into his last AB. Clearly he was seeing Cain's pitches quite well and so it begs the question, "What in the world was Bruce Bochy thinking?"
Instead of walking Lee, the extra run ended up being the difference in the ball game and essentially prevented the Giants from tying the game.
Both Eugenio Velez and Pablo Sandoval came up with base hits in the ninth to score the third run but Bengie Molina came up with two outs and hit a measly grounder to third to end the game.
To be fair, this game was not just lost at the end, but the way the Giants handled themselves in the last few innings wasn't nearly good enough to overcompensate for some unfortunate circumstances early on. With the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, Velez struck out looking.
In the very next half-inning, Kaz Matsui hit a go-ahead two-run home run of the right-field foul pole. But just like almost every Giants loss this season, you cannot blame the pitching.
Cain battled all game long but the offense failed to support him. Aaron Rowand struck out looking twice in this game and left an egregious five runners on base. I hate to say it, but Fred Lewis is looking better at the plate than Rowand is lately. Lewis in left, Velez in center?
That speed and timely hitting would be more effective that Rowand's constant strikeouts. At-least Lewis swings at balls in the strike zone, Rowand only swings when the pitch is outside the zone.
Simply put, the giants have to get the job done on the road. And in order for them to turn things around, they are going to have to forget about contracts and play the guys who have been getting the job done.
With Nate Schierholtz soon to be coming off the DL, Molina should be moved down to sixth in the order, Sandoval take over cleanup and Schierholtz should take over the third hole.