Tim Lincecum’s seeming return to form had been good news for the Giants’ rotation, but then Lincecum regressed, giving up five runs in five innings to Arizona on Wednesday night, though the Giants rallied to win the game.
So as the Giants head into an important series against the Dodgers at AT&T Park this weekend, their only reliable starter is Madison Bumgarner.
Matt Cain was winless in April, giving up home runs in bunches. Ryan Vogelsong has been knocked around consistently. Barry Zito seemed in good form early, but he has had two outings where he’s been knocked out early, probably a sign that he’s returning to his earlier Giants pattern.
Cain should return to form; his problem has been losing sharp control, so pitches have been too hittable. That’s probably a matter of mechanics, which can be corrected because there is nothing unusual about his delivery. Lincecum remains a puzzle because he had looked like the old “Freak” for a time before reverting. The league has probably caught up to Vogelsong, and I have no confidence that Zito will stay focused.
So, it is a very different Giants team than we’ve seen win two World Series in three years, which means a redefinition of “torture.” Instead of agonizing as the Giants try to squeeze out runs, fans will be hoping they can overcome still another five-run deficit.
The good news is that they have an offense which can do it, helped by the improvement of the Brandons, Crawford and Belt.
When he was hitting eighth, Crawford struggled to get his average out of the .220 range, though his defense was strong enough to keep him in the lineup. Hitting in the No. 8 slot is difficult because pitchers seldom give that hitter a good pitch to hit, knowing the pitcher is up next. Crawford was moved up in the order, and he has responded, getting his average up into the .270 range and even hitting five homers. Whether he’ll stay there is doubtful because Marco Scutaro is the ideal No. 2 hitter, but Crawford has proved he can contribute offensively.
Belt was expected to be a more productive hitter after a strong finish last year and a great spring, but he got sidetracked by an intestinal problem that caused him to lose 10 pounds. Dropped to eighth, he’s recovered nicely lately with two late-inning home runs and also a walk off single in the three game series in Arizona, which the Giants swept.
Belt’s revival gives the Giants four hitters who can be expected to hit at least 25 homers this season, with Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence included in that group. AT&T has been a tough park for left-handed power hitters not named Barry Bonds, but it presents no special problems for right-handed power hitters. Posey and Pence are right-handed hitters. Sandoval is a switch-hitter, but when he hits a pitch solidly, no park will contain it.
Without the consistent starting pitching they’ve had recently, the Giants will likely have a season with many ups and downs. But with much stronger hitting, they’ll be entertaining — and could easily win the NL West again.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.