September 19, 2010
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Tim Lincecum's pitching like a Cy Young ace once again. If there is one player that is key to the Giants in their postseason race, it's Lincecum: the staff ace and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. With their ace pitching like he should, the Giants can be confident coming to the yard knowing they have a great shot at winning.
Lincecum's line was as follows: 5 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 3 K, 2 BB. The Giants' hitting was poor as usual. In each of the first three innings, the leadoff hitter reached on a single, but they failed to capitalize on any of those opportunities.
In the fifth inning, with runners on the corners and one out, Tim Lincecum's spot in the order came to the plate. He had pitched a decent ballgame, with his only earned runs resulting from when Pablo Sandoval failed to turn two on a bases-loaded groundball hit to him (he probably could have touched third and fired home, with Buster Posey tagging out Prince Fielder for the final out of the inning, but he opted to throw home immediately for the force).
Even so, though, the hits that Lincecum allowed were weak bloopers and such. Because of the recent lights-out pitching by the bullpen and the Giants' desperate need for runs, Nate Schierholtz pinch hit for Tim Lincecum. This was probably the right decision because the bullpen didn't end up giving any runs, Tim Lincecum got a little extra rest, and Nate Schierholtz is a much better hitter.
Schierholtz walked, and with the bases loaded, Mike Fontenot hit a tailor-made double-play ball to second base. He was however able to get to first in time to avoid an inning-ending double play. The Giants scored their only run on the play, perhaps the icing on the cake. Down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the Giants' 3-4-5 hitters came to bat, but they each struck out.
The Giants are playing exactly like they did last year. Once again they are a team with a superb rotation and bullpen but mediocre offense.
Over the last five games, they've scored 13 runs, an average of 2.6 runs per game. Ten of those runs came in one of the games for a grand total of three runs in the other four games. Their ERA during this five-game span, however, is an impressive 1.20.
Now this formula isn't necessarily a bad thing. As the ancient philosophy of baseball clearly states, "Pitching wins ballgames." And it's true. If a staff shuts down the other club entirely, it's impossible for them to lose, but a team can score as many runs as possible and still aren't guaranteed the win.
The Giants aren't going to go out and pitch a shutout in every game, but they will give up fewer than three runs in the majority of their games down the stretch. They just need to add a hint of offensive support to this playoff recipe and then, bon appetit.
The Giants are by most standards a below-average offense, but they are capable of scoring two, three, or four runs in support of their pitching on a consistent basis.
They clearly have some competence in their lineup: Aubrey Huff can hit, Posey can hit, Pat Burrell can hit, Fontenot, Freddy Sanchez, Juan Uribe, Cody Ross, and the list goes on. It will all click together eventually but hopefully sooner rather than later.
Today, Barry Zito will face Chris Narveson, who allowed 10 runs against the Giants in 3.1 innings in early July, sparking the Giants' offense en route to a 20-win month.
Barry Zito has pitched well of late, as have all the Giants' pitchers. He likely won't pitch poorly.
Narveson's pitched well lately, allowing just six earned runs over his last 26.1 innings (four starts), but the Giants will enter this game knowing what they did to Narveson last time out. They will enter the game with a confidence that they probably haven't felt in a while.
The Giants will win today. It is simply not possible that a second-place team with a former Cy Young award-winner on the mound at home against Chris Narveson could lose the game. In spite of everything related to their recent struggles, they are simply not capable of losing tomorrow's game. It would defy the laws of baseball.
On one final positive note, according to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News, Andres Torres said he is confident he can return before the regular season finale Oct. 3.
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