If ever a 10-game stretch in June were worthy of a ticker-tape parade, the San Francisco Giants just completed one. Sounds odd coming off an anemic, 2-1 loss at the hands of the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks. Has an even weirder ring when you look at the six wins—four of which came against the dregs of Major League Baseball.
I mean, wholly Lord, the Washington Nationals have played 58 games and are still looking for win No. 20 (the Nats are 16-42 including yesterday's win).
Even the two higher-quality wins the Gents took off the drenched diamond in Florida didn't come against real world-beaters. The Marlins start play today sitting at 29-33.
But consider San Francisco's Road Show was an unmitigated disaster thus far in 2009. Before this triumphant jaunt through the rain-soaked East Coast and finale in the desert—c'mon, you can't tell me the baseball gods weren't testing our boys—the Orange and Black had collected a mighty seven wins in 22 roadies.
A pessimist would say SF had lost 15 of 22 away from Pac Bell.
Whichever flavor's your poison, neither was going down too smoothly if you fancy yourself a Giants fan. Another bad trip could've been curtains for the young club's psyche and, consequently, season.
Therefore, a winning road trip is an enormous step forward, regardless of the opposition. It's not like Giants had only been losing to great teams on the road, anyway...unless you consider the San Diego Padres a great team (SF is 0-6 at Petco Park).
In fairness, the Pads play much better in SD, but still...
Furthermore, San Francisco and its fans can take heart in the way los Gigantes nabbed the Ws.
Right away, the fellas showed resilience and resolve in Washington.
The Giant faithful will recall game one of the trip was an uncharacteristically sloppy performance by Tim Lincecum. It's never good when our guys fail to win a Franchise start because he's, well, the Franchise.
Then, of course, there were the much-reported rain delays that messed with baseball history.
Nevertheless, San Fran rebounded from losing Lincecum's start (he didn't actually wear the L) and the wait for history to sweep a double-header, taking the series in the process.
The twin-bill saw just enough offense, just enough vintage Randy Johnson, superb relief work (a theme), standard Matt Cain, and an apologetic nod from Mother Nature in the form of a five-inning complete game in the get-away nightcap.
Oh, and the Big Unit's 300th win in the opener. Yeah, I'd say the trip in D.C. was a good start.
The four games in Florida were less eventful, but that's still good progress because one of the "uneventful" occurrences was another very nice start by Barry Zito. The much-maligned southpaw went only five innings while surrendering a single earned run, seven base-runners (three via walk, four via hit), and whiffing three.
The other unevents were more effective innings from the 'pen and a return to Lincecum's customary filth. Even the losses weren't too sexy—yet another wild '09 start from Jonathan Sanchez and a dandy-if-bland effort from Johnson on short rest.
The Big Unit wasn't amazing—he coughed up three earnies plus 10 ducks on the pond in five innings. And yet the Giant bats, which needed an Edgar Renteria single in the seventh to avoid being no-hit by a nondescript rookie, didn't help a ton.
We can forgive the O because, apparently, it was coyly laying in wait for the desert.
SF exploded for 15 runs in the first two games of the Diamondback series, which was a good thing because neither Cain nor Zito had wonderful outings. Both tossers allowed four earned runs, 11 base-runners, and whiffed six Snakes—Cain did his work through six-and-one-third, whereas Barry on lasted five, but both got Ws.
Nice, since the duo of twirlers has earned its stripes in the "tough loss" department.
Ironically, Jonathan Sanchez was the best starting pitcher of the three-gamer and took its only loss—he was incredibly wild with seven walks in five-and-one-third frames of work, but Sanchez worked his way out of trouble (3 hits, 5 Ks) and finished the night with only a lone earned run on the board.
Unfortunately for us, Arizona's Max Scherzer was even better and stifled the suddenly/briefly potent offense.
No shame there—Scherzer's stuff can be grotesque, which is bad news for the National League West because the youngster also seems to be finding his consistency.
Throughout the 10-game/three-city affair, San Francisco featured good starting pitching, which we've seen. It also relied on stellar defense and even better work from the firemen in the bullpen.
I've previously written about the leather so it's time to show love for the 'pen, check this out (remember the I wiped the opener in Washington):
Merkin Valdez—2 IP, 0 ER, 0 hits, 2 walks, 3 Ks (torched in first game)
Bobby Howry—4 IP, 0 ER, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 K (torched in first game)
Justin Miller—4 IP, 1 ER, 4 hits, 4 walks, 1 K
Brandon Medders—4 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 4 hits, 1 walk, 3 Ks (what a find)
Sergio Romo—4 IP, 0 ER, 1 hit, 0 walks, 5 Ks (so nice to have him back)
Jeremy Affeldt—2 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 1 hit, 2 walks, 2 Ks
Brian Wilson—4 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 3 hits, 4 walks, 9 Ks
There continue to be too many walks and Wilson continues to make things interesting in the ninth, except on Wednesday when the closer got the save by striking out three hitters in 12 pitches and 10 strikes. But nine games, 25 innings of work, and two earned runs? I'll take it.
So, although the ending was a bit of a thud, the overall 10-game road trip was a success. A big one.
Chuck the first abomination against the Nats and you saw a realization of San Francisco's recipe for 2009 success—great starting pitching, great defense, great bullpen work, and offense at the right time.
It won't work all the time and the Giants never were gonna win 100 games, but it still could be enough.
And "enough" gets you into the postseason.