San Francisco Giants: 5 Reasons to Be Optimistic After Latest Loss to D'Backs

Manny Randhawa@@MannyBal9Correspondent IIIAugust 3, 2011

San Francisco Giants: 5 Reasons to Be Optimistic After Latest Loss to D'Backs

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    The Giants have lost their grip on sole possession of first place in the NL West after the Arizona Diamondbacks took the first two games of their three-game set in San Francisco.

    Despite all of the negatives resulting from the loss, there are several positives to take from the Giants' 6-1 loss last night.

1. Tim Lincecum Was Good, Halting a 3-Game Streak of Poor Giants Starts

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    The biggest concern for the Giants about their four-game losing streak heading into last night's contest with the Diamondbacks was that their starting pitching had been uncharacteristically shaky over that span.

    While it certainly was no surprise that Barry Zito was shelled for five runs in five innings against the Reds in Cincinnati, it was very troubling to see Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain have back-to-back rough outings.

    Bumgarner was hit hard by the Reds on Saturday, yielding five earned runs on seven hits in four innings.

    Cain then lost to the Diamondbacks on Monday night, giving up five runs in a nightmarish fifth inning that buried San Francisco in the series opener with Arizona.

    Tim Lincecum put a stop to all of that, looking very much like his usual self.

    While Lincecum made a mistake to D'Backs rookie Paul Goldschmidt, resulting in a two-run homer in the fifth inning, San Francisco's ace pitched well otherwise, allowing just those two runs on three hits over seven innings and striking out eight.

2. Carlos Beltran Is Starting to Swing It

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    After being traded to the Giants, Carlos Beltran started off very slowly at the plate, going two for his first 17.

    That isn't the Beltran who Brian Sabean was bargaining for.

    But the slugging right fielder is starting to hit the ball well, even if the ball is landing in someone's glove.

    Since his 2-for-17 start, Beltran is 3-for-8 with a triple since making his AT&T Park debut as a Giant. Last night, he was robbed of what would have been a game-tying extra base hit when Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton made a fantastic catch to save Arizona.

3. Pablo Sandoval Continues to Rake

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    Pablo Sandoval continues to be the most consistent hitter for the Giants, and he showed it again last night, going 3-for-4 with a double and a RBI.

    Sandoval is hitting .308 for the season and his on-base percentage is .351.

    With Carlos Beltran starting to hit, he and Sandoval could quickly become one of the best one-two punches in the game.

4. Jeff Keppinger Has Made a Smooth Transition to the Giants

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    Jeff Keppinger has hit safely in 10 of his 12 games so far as a Giant. His ability to put the ball in play consistently will serve this lineup well, especially in situations where there are runners in scoring position with less than two outs. The Giants have had terrible difficulties with those situations this season.

5. Uncertainty in Starting Rotation Is Over, for Now

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    With Barry Zito placed on the disabled list on Tuesday and Jonathan Sanchez scheduled to return to the starting rotation when the Giants host the Philadelphia Phillies Friday night, the uncertainty that has swirled around the starting rotation in San Francisco will end—at least for the moment.

    Zito had been pitching so poorly over his last three starts that it seemed that every fifth day the Giants would have to be prepared to concede a loss—something that shouldn't happen for a club that has aspirations of repeating as world champions.

    With Sanchez back in the mix, the Giants have a proven big-game pitcher who, while erratic at times, sports an opponents' batting average of just .212 and still has electric stuff when it's in the strike zone.

    The rotation order has been thrown off quite a bit since Sanchez's injury, but now with his return, look for the Giants pitching to resume its dominant ways.

There's Lots of Baseball Left to Be Played, and the Giants Are Now in a Race

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    The Giants thrived in the 2010 NL West race, as the San Diego Padres and the Giants battled it out for a postseason berth.

    Now that the Arizona Diamondbacks are pushing San Francisco, the result could very well be that the Giants up their game and get the requisite push they need to be ready to defend their title come October.

    Even in last night's defeat, there are a good number of signs that point to a resurgence from the Giants as they hit the stretch run.