In game two of a critical three-game series between the NL West’s first place San Francisco Giants and the closely-trailing Arizona Diamondbacks, Giants ace Tim Lincecum lost to the D-Backs' Daniel Hudson.
By the numbers, Lincecum pitched a better game. However, Hudson was lights out against his opposition, which actually may not have been a highly impressive feat on August 2nd at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
The final score of 6-2 resulted in the Diamondbacks moving up the NL West rankings to share the first place slot with the Giants.
Lincecum gave up just three hits and two runs on three walks, while striking out eight. Meanwhile, the offense left six men on base and went 1-5 with runners in scoring position.
The defending World Champs notoriously rank among the very worst offenses in the majors. San Francisco looked like a team that had exhausted all of their options for run scoring Tuesday night.
It has been rather clear for some time now what the Giants need to do if they want to be taken seriously about another trip to the World Series this year. The lineup needs to step up and support the pitching staff, which continues to be heralded as one of the best in the National League.
It seemed as though they had acquired just what they were looking for five days ago when Giants GM Brian Sabean sent top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to the New York Mets in return for right fielder Carlos Beltran.
Beltran has gotten off to a rather slow start for the Giants, barely hitting .200 and driving in just one run in six starts. The veteran slugger has shown glimpses of the swing that Giants fans hope will lift them to contend for the title again in 2011, although San Francisco has won just one game and lost five since his arrival.
There is no need for fans to worry that the trade will not be beneficial to the team. Actually, Giants fans have every reason to believe that Beltran will become the much-needed contributor that they hoped for him to be sooner or later. He is a lifetime .282 batter and has done better than that with New York this year. He also has hit 15 home runs and leads the league with 30 doubles.
However, San Francisco certainly needs to shake things up.
The acquisitions of infielders Jeff Keppinger (2B) and veteran Orlando Cabrera, who will likely take most of the time at shortstop for the Giants, have helped solidify the middle infield which was impacted by the loss of team leader Freddy Sanchez.
Pablo Sandoval continues to be the hottest bat, hitting .308. Despite missing six weeks to injury, he is also leading the team with ten home runs, trailing only Beltran.
Who should start at first base for the Giants for the rest of 2011?
Sandoval’s success at the plate has been one large reason the Giants have been able to back up their phenomenal pitching staff and stay in first place for most of the season. It is expected that Beltran will also bring some desperately needed relief.
It is clear the intention of the Giants organization is to muster together every last scrap off the heap to win again this year rather than preserving moderate success. Now more than ever, the Giants must bring together the misfits and castoffs who won it all in 2010.
Aubrey Huff had one of the best seasons of his career last year in his first full season with San Francisco. He became a team leader and a fan favorite, but has not followed the same path in 2011. He has in fact struggled, performing so poorly at the plate that he is bringing the team down.
Huff hit a dismal .211 in April, and since then his average has steadily increased to the .240 mark while he has achieved just .294 OBP. His contribution still does not compare to what he did in 2010, in which he finished with a .290 batting average.
Nevertheless, for some reason he continues to start on a daily basis, while the rookie Brandon Belt awaits his time to shine on the bench seeing just minimal playing time, in which he has rarely met the high expectations that have been set for him.
Who should start at catcher for the Giants for the rest of 2011?
It has been a slow start to what should be a promising career for the rookie Belt. Despite a lack of success in his one real shot at becoming an everyday starter for the Giants, the kid deserves the opportunity to develop into what all baseball science and knowledge says that he will.
Although Belt hit just .184 in April during his first stint in the big leagues, he has returned back to Triple A several times only to prove that he is ready to take the next step up. He has hit .324 with a .462 OBP in 42 games with the Giants’ minor league team in Fresno.
The time is now to bench Aubrey Huff and start Brandon Belt everyday for San Francisco. Huff has made it clear that he will not be returning to last year’s form any time soon.
Giants GM Brian Sabean and Manager Bruce Bochy need to give Belt the opportunity to develop into the player his statistics show he promises to be. It is a risk worth taking, as he will not be a significant downgrade, if even a downgrade at all, to the player Aubrey Huff has been for San Francisco this year.
With the proposed experience and playing time accumulated, fans can hope that Belt will become the Buster Posey of 2010 by the time the postseason rolls around. That is a void that the Giants desperately need to fill if they are to be a true threat.
The past several days have been dismal for San Francisco. The lineup has gotten better, but the outcome has not. This is a great team lead by a great pitching staff that needs run support to be successful. It seems as though this is a franchise that is willing to do what needs to be done in order to produce a winning recipe while they have the championship ingredients.
They just might have the right pieces to beat the best of the best, but these pieces need to be played correctly to make it happen.