Giants' Scoreless Sweep of Dodgers Catapults World Champs Back Up NL West Ladder

Jason Catania@@JayCat11MLB Lead WriterMay 22, 2015

USA Today

Do not adjust your calendars. It is 2015, and the San Francisco Giants are the hottest team in baseball outside of the nation’s capital.

The Giants pulled off a 4-0 victory Thursday over the Los Angeles Dodgers and reigning NL MVP and Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. The win capped a remarkable three-game sweep of the NL West rivals, who—get this—didn't score a single run.

Seriously: Prior to Thursday's win, Wednesday's game brought an identical score, while Tuesday's series opener was a 2-0 victory. This, mind you, against an L.A. club that has scored more runs than all but three teams.

The sweep-completing game was the most impressive of all, as ace Madison Bumgarner, the reigning World Series MVP, hurled 6.1 scoreless innings and even hit a home run in the third inning off Kershaw to open the scoring. The solo shot was the seventh of Bumgarner’s seven-year career—and the first the Dodgers ace has ever surrendered to an opposing pitcher in his eight seasons.

L.A. entered the series with a fairly comfortable 4.5-game lead in the division. It leaves San Francisco with a 24-16 mark, and with that the gap down to just 1.5 games over the 23-18 Giants, who now have won an MLB-best six straight.

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What’s more, the Giants already have won seven of nine against the Dodgers this season.

Apparently, somebody forgot to tell the Giants, who won it all last year as well as in 2012 and 2010, it's not an #EvenYear.

San Francisco is getting it done behind Bumgarner (5-2, 2.84 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) and catcher Buster Posey (.306 BA, team-best 7 HR), the team’s two superstars.

It’s not a coincidence, however, that this six-game winning streak coincides with the return of outfielder Hunter Pence, arguably the heart and soul of the squad who missed the first month-plus with a fractured forearm suffered in his very first spring training game.

Hunter Pence is back, and the Giants are winning.
Hunter Pence is back, and the Giants are winning.Beck Diefenbach/Associated Press

But the Giants also are getting quality performances out of many of their other (as usual) underrated-slash-overlooked starters, including first baseman Brandon Belt (.867 OPS), shortstop Brandon Crawford (.906 OPS, team-high 27 RBI), second baseman Joe Panik (.287/.361/.412) and outfielders Angel Pagan (team-best .325 BA) and Nori Aoki (.297 BA, team-topping 10 SB).

Meanwhile, rookies Chris Heston and Matt Duffy were as unheralded as it gets coming into the season, and yet they are contributing regularly and performing like they’ve been here before through the first quarter of their first year.

This is where Tim Lincecum’s mini-revival needs to be mentioned too. The two-time Cy Young winner’s team-best 2.08 ERA seems to be a product of lots of smoke and several mirrors, especially since his fastball now sits in the upper 80s on a good day. But it’s hard to argue with the results, at least to this point.

He's no longer The Freak with the 98 mph fastball, but Tim Lincecum is pitching well again.
He's no longer The Freak with the 98 mph fastball, but Tim Lincecum is pitching well again.Ben Margot/Associated Press/Associated Press

That said—and stop us if you’ve heard this before with regard to the Giants—San Francisco wasn’t supposed to be doing this.

Not after playing deeper into October than 28 other teams. Not after watching fan favorite Pablo Sandoval depart and losing out on lefty Jon Lester in free agency. And certainly not after entering the season with Pence as well as veteran right-handers Matt Cain and Jake Peavy on the disabled list.

Yet despite all that, the Giants are not only surviving; they’re right in the thick of things after a quarter of the season.

The way the Giants are going, maybe 2015 actually is an #EvenYear after all.

Statistics are accurate as of Thursday, May 21, and courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.