Four Reasons the San Francisco Giants Are Alive and Kicking

Evan Aczon@TwoSeamGripeSenior Analyst IMay 29, 2008

The Giants are hot right now. You might look at the record and see that they're finishing up a 5-3 road trip, but they're hot.

It's not just Bengie Molina, Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn, and Ray Durham. The whole team is playing more relaxed and really just playing their style of baseball. These four things have been bright spots in the past week for this team:

1. Barry Zito beat the Florida Marlins.
A couple of things happened in this series that the Giants would like to forget, like the sweep of the doubleheader, Omar Vizquel making two errors, and the bullpen blowing another game.

But a few things happened that the Giants would like nothing better than to build upon.

Vizquel did set the record for most games played at the shortstop position, something that he deserves and will be much revered for. The Giants did beat a team that was in first place, and kept the Marlins torrid offense at bay.

However, I feel that even though the team lost two out of three, the strong outing from Barry Zito trumped the losses.

If you looked back at this series and gave Matt Cain a win, but saddled Zito with an 0-9 record, it would have been a lot worse. Having Zito look as he did, which was really good, was so important to this team.

His body language was better, his confidence is back, and in the month of May, he's pitched more than respectably. Although he lost in Pittsrburgh and against the White Sox, he's still 1-2 in four starts, sporting a 3.22 ERA this month, much better than March (0-2, 7.20) and April (0-5, 7.61). He's also pitched more innings already than he did ALL of last month, and with more strikeouts.

This means so much to the Giants franchise. Not only does it make them look like less of fools for signing him to his lucrative deal, but it means that their supposed franchise player is finally earning his keep.

2) They pounded the Arizona Diamondbacks.
After the Giants beat the D-backs 6-3 on Tuesday, they came right back and mauled them 11-3 on Wednesday. The third-place Giants are now 4-4 against first-place Arizona.

However, last night's game was key in a lot of ways.

Jonathan Sanchez went six strong, striking out six, and doing a lot better than counterpart Doug Davis, who looked a little less sharp than in his triumphant return last week.

One of the most important stats that the Giants improved on tonight was their clutch hitting. In the previous 52 games, they were 3-32 with the bases loaded (.094); last night they went 3-4, upping it slightly to .167.

Hopefully that's a trend that continues for a while.

The bases loaded hits Wednesday night came from Rowand, knocking in one with an infield single, Emmanuel Burriss, who had a two run single, and Ray Durham, who cleared the bases with a double.

Alex Hinshaw is looking very good showing off his closer stuff, striking out nine in 4.1 innings of scoreless relief.

Fred Lewis stole another base, putting him at nine for the year and tying him with Randy Winn for the team lead. He also scored three runs, putting him at 32 for his first full season, and helping the Giants score in double digits for the first time in 2008.

3) Bengie Molina is INSANELY hot (and so is the middle of the order).
Bengie Molina, a lifetime .278 hitter, is hitting .339 this year in the cleanup spot. Before the year started, people were saying, "Bengie Molina is your cleanup hitter? The Giants must be a joke this year."

No longer.

In his current ten-game hitting streak, Molina is hitting .590. As Duane Kuiper said, there's no one that hot this side of Lance Berkman. On this road trip, his average rose from .276 in Colorado to the .339 mark that its at now.

He also added seven doubles, 14 RBIs, and 33 total bases. His five doubles in one day in Florida is something that he's never done before. He's now fourth in the league in average

But right behind him is Aaron Rowand, who's hitting well enough that opposing teams can't just pitch around Molina. Rowand's been hot all season, but also had a great road trip, going 12-30 with two homers and 12 RBIs.

And right before Molina is Randy Winn, who has gone back to last season's form. Winn had a 15-game hitting streak broken at Colorado, but is hitting .327 with 32 hits and three steals during the month of May.

Also heating up is Ray Durham, who's 13-40 (.325) since the series against the White Sox. The Giants are batting .280 this month and are scoring 4.7 runs a game.

4) Tim Lincecum is pitching like a Cy Young candidate
Tied for first in the majors with 76 strikeouts. Third in the majors in ERA with a 2.33 mark. He has a third of the Giants wins so far, and he's deserved all of them. He's pitched in 11 games, and the Giants have won 8 of them.

He's just dominant right now, as he was on Tuesday when he struck out seven in 7 1/3. The Giants are getting more lenient with his pitch counts, letting him get deeper into games. But they're still keeping an eye on his innings, as they don't want them piling up too high.

If he keeps at this rate, though, Lincecum will have 234 Ks this year, to go along with a projected 22 wins.

Those are Cy Young numbers for sure, but the Giants overall record might have a negative impact on his votes. As stated by Dave Fleming before the game, the scariest part about Lincecum is his ability to learn.

He was already a scary pitcher before this year, but then he added a changeup to the mix, giving another stellar pitch for opposing hitters to worry about.

He keeps getting better, and at this rate, if he doesn't win the Cy Young this year, he'll win it soon, and it won't be his last.


Quick Notes
While looking for more stories about Omar Vizquel, I came across this quote from ESPN writer Jim Caple:

"When all the talk was about the shortstop Holy Trinity of Jeter, Nomar and A-Rod, few ever thought to make it a Fab Four by including Omar. Hell, what did fielding your position brilliantly mean compared to hitting home runs or leading the league in batting? But the funny thing about the Holy Trinity is that while Nomar and A-Rod don't play the position anymore, Omar still does, at age 41."

It's good to know that a lot of people on the national scale respect the man. Also, even though the Giants wailed on the D-backs today, still no front page love from ESPN or Sports Illustrated.


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