Giants Give Astros Both Barrels, But Are They Still Gun Shy on the Road?
A lot of experts, analysts, writers, fans, and observers have remarked on the disparity between the San Francisco Giants' home record and their road equivalent. The former is perched delicately atop Major League Baseball as its momentary best and the latter has been sputtering near the Show's caboose all year.
I'm a living, breathing example as I'd answer to three of those five descriptions and I've already given my two cents on the matter.
The phenomenon is being pushed to the fore of baseball prominence as the Gents continue their unlikely and parallel push toward the National League Wild Card.
But hold the phone.
It's only one road series, yet San Francisco's most recent jaunt through the Lone Star State deserves more than casual notice. If the Giants are still standing after the regular season dust settles, it may just be this trio in Texas that becomes the watershed moment.
Remember, los Gigantes dragged a 21-31 roadie mark into Minute Maid Park like Al Pacino in Ocean's Thirteen.
Coming into the three-gamer, the 'Stros were 51-53—not spectacular, but good for the peripherals of both the NL Central pennant chase and those of the NL Wild Card. Additionally, Houston spent June and July playing very good baseball.
Granted, Houston finished Julio in a bit of a slide, which has subsequently been exacerbated by dropping two of three to the fellas from the City. Details, details...
The Orange and Black still faced the 11th player in its road demon and it still sported the blemish of an offense away from the ironic confines of AT&T Park.
Furthermore, the Giants sent their No. 3 starter, their No. 4, and their No. 5 to the bump against a team fueled by offense in a teeny-tiny stadium. Incidentally, The Juice Box is one of the more fantastically appropriate nicknames I've ever run across—works on so many levels and, like Cosmo, I like levels.
Again, it must be acknowledged that San Francisco's No. 3 is actually Matt Cain due to the preference for breaking Cainer and fellow righthander Tim Lincecum up with a southpaw (currently Barry Zito). In other words, the Gents trot out their No. 2 as their No. 3 and he's good enough to be the ace of most staffs.
Of course, Houston beat Matt Cain.
The Kid tossed well and they persisted in splattering him around the yard.
This means the road-unrugged San Francisco Giants went into a decent-to-good opponent's home with the rear of its rotation, lost behind it's best horse for the series, and managed to emerge from those humble beginnings with a 2-1 series win.
Once more for the cheap seats and Los Angeles Dodger fans—San Fran did it behind a magnificent turn in the rotation by Jonathan Sanchez and a courageously triumphant return to the slab by Joe Martinez.
Jolted Joe was making his big league return from that sickening line drive to the dome he absorbed off Mike Cameron's thump in the opening week of the season. He wasn't brilliant, but he was good and good was enough to win on this day.
Because there's this last little development—that beleaguered O got off the canvas.
The sticks awakened after several false starts in the series' opener (touch luck, Cainer). Ladies and gentlemen, let me draw your attention to the perfect example of an "understatement" in the previous sentence.
Ahem, maybe I was wrong about the additions of Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko only giving marginal returns to the San Francisco lineup.
Eight runs to back the young lefty and 10 runs to prop up Martinez would certainly argue against me. Especially since they were scored across a foreign dish. I don't mean to belabor the point, but look at the splits (these INCLUDE the 18-run outburst):
Split AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Home 1721 240 471 93 18 37 227 132 355 .274 .329 .413 .742
Away 1933 197 483 103 8 32 183 111 428 .250 .293 .361 .654
The numbers might not look so drastic, but consider they include the damage of the last two games—80 at-bats, the aforementioned 18 runs, 29 hits, five doubles, two triples, three home runs, 17 runs batted in, five walks, and 15 strikeouts.
In other words, the yardsticks were significantly shorter two days ago.
Two games, two wins, 18 runs worth of offensive explosion, a quality opponent, a hostile environment, on the heels of adding two new bats, the weaker half of the rotation, and a three-run comeback on Getaway Day to boot.
One series is usually only that, one series. However, there are exceptions.
Sometimes, a single series can trumpet a corner turned in the long, merciless season. Sometimes, it can bring with it the arrival of a vulnerable, naked optimism.
Believe fellow San Francisco Giant fans, but beware.
Faith has always been a perfidious pleasure for us. It's taken us to the edge of immortality, only to drop us into the darkest depths of fandom too many times to go into this blindly.
A baseball heart can only take so much.
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