Yesterday Matt Cain was scratched from the lineup because he cut his finger trying to catch a kitchen knife he’d dropped, on a day when Brandon Belt was off for rest – which gave Giants fans pause for concern; an emergency start without Posey behind the plate nor Belt at first.
But Yusmeiro Petit came in well-rested off the bench and had a great start. The Giants bats woke up and the Giants shutout the Padres 6-0, to even the series. The system responded very effectively to what will be a one-start absence by the big horse and gives confidence in at least one SP from the bench for an emergency start or a horrible outing (such as Petit’s last performance recovering for Vogey).
Petit held the Padres to three hits over six innings and struck out four. Jean Machi held them scoreless for two more and Sergio Romo kept them blanked to get his eighth save. Home runs by Buster Posey and Angel Pagan – who lead the team in RBIs – and clutch hitting in the form of a 3RBI single by Hector Sanchez, provided the runs.
Giants ace Tim Hudson goes tonight versus the Padres lefty Robbie Erlin and the batting lineup is absent Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval.
If Huddy can get the win it will be the NL West leading Giants’ sixth win in seven games, and second series win in a row including the sweep of the Indians.
The only blemish was the 4-6 loss to the Padres on Sunday when Madison Bumgarner looked completely out of sorts and was touched up for it. The bats just couldn’t get going.
The Giants lead the division by half a game and have shared it equally with the Dodgers. They often look good but an honest look at them at the end of April reveals:
* Belt, Posey and Pence are still only hitting around .250
* Pablo Sandoval continues to languish at the plate (.177). Worse, his distracted play in the field resulted in Sandoval having more errors (4) than homers(2) or even RBIs (3) until very recently. (Now 6RBIs)
* Timely hitting appears for the Giants in a game with steals, bunts and sacs moving guys over but then it disappears entirely for several games. The situational hitting lacks consistency and no single order seems to be better than any other.
On the bright side:
* Hector Sanchez is playing better
* Michael Morse has been very good at the plate and decent in the field – platooning him in and out works well late in games, too.
* The defense, particularly the infield, has been much more crisp. Brandon Hicks has been a welcome surprise at replacing Marco Scutaro, whom it seems may never make it back to the lineup: the back problems just aren’t getting better from what I hear. But the Brandons are playing better together weekly. Arias will need to play some 3B to spell Sandoval and that gives Hicks more playing time, and right now it’s working out well.
The Giants just barely lead the Rockies and Dodgers in what is turning out to be a pretty good NL West division. It was great to sweep the Indians and get crucial Inter-league wins. But the Giants need to get wins against the Pads and D-backs consistently to set the pace against the Dodgers or even the Rockies.
Padres quality bullpen and good hitting will put them in the spoiler role against all three top teams. It isn’t just Tim Lincecum’s nemesis Paul Goldschmidt that puts D-Backs sweeps in jeopardy. The Giants haven’t produced runs against Arizona consistently and have had lapses in defense that cost them close games. Close games, games against weaker teams and Inter-league series are all going to be “50/50 games” for the Dodgers, Giants and Rockies in pursuit of the Division lead.
Whoever plays smart, crisp baseball and hustles the most will take the division – and the SF Giants have an excellent shot at being that team.