The San Francisco Giants wrapped up their series with the Minnesota Twins yesterday by winning the rubber match, taking the three-game series on a glorious afternoon game in San Francisco. Tim Lincecum looked like the Cy Young of old as he pitched seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits, while striking out 12. Javier Lopez pitched a harmless eighth followed by Brian Wilson in the ninth, who came in and provided his usual theatrics, allowing a run before shutting down the rally to preserve a 2-1 victory and record his 21st save.
The win yesterday brought Lincecum’s record back to .500 at 6-6 and lowered his ERA to 3.16. After back-to-back masterful pitching performances by Ryan Vogelsong on Wednesday evening and Lincecum yesterday, and holding the red-hot Minnesota Twins to just one run in each game, all is well in Giant territory, for now. Even the opening game of the home stand, a game in which the Giants lost 9-2 as starter Madison Bumgarner gave up eight runs in the first inning, including allowing eight straight hits to open the ballgame, seems like a distant memory.
Such is the roller coaster that Giant fans know all too well, watching their team get swept in unbelievably horrible fashion, only to resiliently bounce back and suddenly look like they are built to scratch out a few runs, play good defense and out pitch their opponents innings one through nine.
It is the resilience that has become a major trait of this team, and it’s something that Bruce Bochy deserves a ton of credit for. Numerous times last year the media left the Giants for dead, only to jump back on the bandwagon after the levelheaded, mild-tempered “Boch” guided the team through the stormy waters.
Remember, it was only last August when the Giant were just hanging in there, trying to make a run as San Diego started to falter. They went 13-15, losing two out of three to San Diego, Philadelphia, St Louis, Arizona and three out of four to Atlanta. National and San Francisco media both buried the Giants, and Bochy was taking an incredible amount of heat.
Somehow, the skipper kept the team together, righted the ship in September and the rest is history.
I revisit the past because it is very applicable for the present. Once again the Giants are teetering back and forth between a team that should win the West and challenge for the NL pennant, and a team that ranks near or at the bottom in most offensive categories. The media also continues to go back and forth on the Giants, but the story now is they are either a battle tested machine that hits “just enough” to allow their amazing pitching staff to dominate and win, or they are an anemic offense that better get a couple of new bats or they’re going to have a hard time winning the West, let alone the pennant.
Bochy again is doing a masterful job keeping the team on as even keel as possible, especially with the added pressure of being the defending World Series Champs, which automatically heightens the media scrutiny. Through it all, the Giants remain a tight-knit clubhouse, a team in the truest sense of the word, which helps them battle through the tough times together and allows them to weather storms and stay mentally strong.
It will be interesting to see if Brian Sabean decides to make a big move and trade one or two of the Giants coveted pitchers, like Jonathan Sanchez or Ramon Ramirez, or if he decides to trade one or two of their highly touted prospects, like Brandon Belt or Zach Wheeler, in an effort to land a big bat for the second half. Many fans are split on this decision as a lot of people feel the Giants are still good enough to win the NL West, and they’ll take their chances from there.
I’m not sure the Giants should bet on rebottling that same lighting they caught last year, but if that proves to be the way Sabean and the front office decide to go, I wouldn’t want anyone but “Boch” leading the way.