Giants must prove they are elite 

click to enlarge Snap back: The fate of the NL West crown could rest in the hands of Tim Lincecum. If he regains his form, the Giants will be a force in the division, and possibly, the playoffs. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • Snap back: The fate of the NL West crown could rest in the hands of Tim Lincecum. If he regains his form, the Giants will be a force in the division, and possibly, the playoffs.

Having proven they’re better than the American League All-Stars, the Giants need to prove that they can beat the best teams in the National League.

So far, they haven’t. They went two months without winning a series from a team with a winning record until they finally beat the Los Angeles Dodgers three straight, June 25-27. But that comes with an asterisk because injuries, especially the hamstring that has sidelined Matt Kemp, have rendered the Dodgers punchless. L.A. had also been swept by the A’s in Oakland the week before, when the A’s were below .500.

Since then, the Giants salvaged a split of the four-game series with the Cincinnati Reds, while looking like the inferior team, and had a disastrous road trip — 0-3 against the Washington Nationals, 1-2 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Giants should still win their division, unless Kemp, Andre Ethier and Mark Ellis are healthy for the rest of the season. The Arizona Diamondbacks make an occasional splash, but they haven’t looked like a playoff team since the first week of the season.

But just getting to the postseason isn’t enough if the good teams establish dominance in the regular season. Do you think the Nationals, Pirates or Reds would fear the Giants in the postseason?

Pitching is the Giants’ strength, but right now they have just three reliable starters: Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner. Barry Zito is starting another slide to oblivion, just as he did in 2010. Tim Lincecum has been a complete mystery to everybody. It would make a huge difference if Lincecum got his game back, but who knows if he will. The Giants have no replacements in their minor-league system.

Lately, Santiago Casilla has had disastrous stints as a closer, after a great start in replacing Brian Wilson, but the Giants have no other good options. Sergio Romo, the people’s choice, has been great in a setup role, but has no experience as a full-time stopper. I’m not a Casilla fan, either, but Wilson isn’t coming back this season after Tommy John surgery. In fact, his career may be over.

The Giants have the best defensive outfield since Willie Mays was playing with whomever, but only Melky Cabrera looks like a solid hitter. Angel Pagan has fallen off after a hot start and Gregor Blanco has fallen off a cliff, worn out by playing every day when he was originally thought to be a backup.

Most significantly, the Giants lack power. Buster Posey leads the team with 10 home runs; nobody else has more than eight. For all the talk about lack of clutch hitting, what it comes down to is that the Giants almost never get a home run when they need it.

Don’t blame AT&T Park for the lack of home runs. The park is tough on left-handed hitters who don’t pull the ball down the line, but right-handed power hitters have had no trouble. But the Giants haven’t had a consistent one since Jeff Kent left.

So, the Giants’ only real hope in the postseason will be if Lincecum regains his form. If not, well, replay your 2010 videos.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at glenndickey36@gmail.com.

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Glenn Dickey

Glenn Dickey

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