San Francisco Giants Tied for First Place in NL West

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San Francisco Giants Tied for First Place in NL West
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

May 6. 

That is the last day the Giants were in 1st place. Four months later, the Giants stand atop the NL West, tied with the San Diego Padres.

They won 1-0 on Friday thanks to yet another strong pitching effort. Jonathan Sanchez went five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, but walking eight (one intentionally). Despite his lack of control, he did his job. He kept the Giants in the game, and gave them the opportunity to win.

Aubrey Huff was hit by a pitch to start the seventh inning, at which point Clayton Richard was removed from the game and replaced with Luke Gregerson. While Pat Burrell was swinging at strike three to make the first out, Aubrey Huff took a bold steal of second base. Jose Guillen reached on a fielder's choice, and Nate Schierholtz was put in to pinch run for him.

With one out and runners on the corners, Uribe hit a chopper to shortstop. Cabrera flipped the ball to Eckstein, who threw to first, but the inning-ending double play couldn't be completed as Uribe was safe by half a step. Nate Schierholtz slid with all of his force into Eckstein to break up the double play, and it probably made the difference, allowing the Giants to take the lead.

With a 1-0 lead, the Giants' bullpen was able to shut the Padres down with a spectacular effort. They combined for four scoreless innings, allowing just two hits.

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The Giants won this game the way they were expected to win and supposed to win ballgames this year—by shutting down the opposition. The rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Zito, Sanchez, and Bumgarner has always the had the potential to perform at an elite level, but it's finally coming to fruition.

They're pitching like they're the best rotation in baseball...and perhaps they are—or at least they could be if they can be consistent.  The bullpen, too, is pitching incredibly. On this road trip so far, the bullpen ERA has been 0.43. In 21 innings of pitching, the bullpen has allowed just one earned run. The rotation, meanwhile, sports an impressive 2.82 ERA on the road trip.

Every play matters: Huff's stolen base, Schierholtz's hard slide into second, Jonathan Sanchez's ability to induce a double play with one out and runners on first and second against Adrian Gonzalez.  They played hard, executed in certain key moments, and walked away with the victory.

Quite possibly the most impressive part of this game is that they did this without any assistance from Buster Posey, whose absence weakens the Giants' offense significantly (not to mention what he brings to this team defensively...).


Notes:

Brian Wilson has allowed just one earned run in his last 18.2 innings of work. He's the best closer in the National League at this point, an established all-star closer whose kept the ball in the park, struck out 82 batters in 65 innings, and had an ERA of 1.80—nearly one lower than his previous career best. 

Freddy Sanchez, who was 2-for-4, has had multiple hits in 11 of his last 23 games. He's made it harder to notice Andres Torres' struggles at the plate, as he's been getting hits at inconceivable rates—he's batting .414 since August 12. 

Jonathan Sanchez is starting to find his rhythm, showing a bit of consistency at the moment: he's allowed just one earned run over his last three starts (20 innings). While tonight's start wasn't flawless (the seven walks were certainly noticeable...), he did only give up one hit

The Giants are 8-2 in September, performing well now that their pitching is prospering. 

The Rockies are starting to become a serious issue. They've won eight in a row, and stand just 2.5 games behind the Giants. Troy Tulowitzki has hit seven home runs in his last nine games. 

Tomorrow: Madison Bumgarner will square off against Tim Stauffer. Stauffer has started just two games this year, not reaching the sixth inning in either game.
If the Giants can get to him early, Madison Bumgarner can probably maintain the lead. He's a great pitcher on the road (2.25 ERA), and he was successful in his one start against San Diego this year (two earned runs in seven innings). And Buster Posey will hopefully play, which will add offensive punch. 
Every game matters, especially with the Rockies right on the Giants' tail. If they win tomorrow, they need to come out and try to do the same in the finale, to start burying the Padres, and to keep the Rockies from gaining ground. 
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