June has arrived with promise and reminders. June rhymes with moon, spoon, loon and, as those who remember the Giants’ bad old days, swoon. A tradition presumably abandoned.
After a May in which San Francisco lost its star catcher and six games during the final eight days, the new month couldn’t be as troublesome as the past when a quick start became a sudden decline.
You sensed even back in spring training 2011 wasn’t meant to be particularly enlightening or rewarding. Cody Ross was injured. Brian Wilson was injured. Then Pablo Sandoval was injured. Andres Torres was injured. Now Buster Posey, Darren Ford, Mike Fontenot and Mark DeRosa are injured.
The baseball gods are a perverse group. They give hesitantly and take willingly. Last year, the fates smiled and Aubrey Huff hit, and San Francisco at last had its World Series championship. To borrow from George Gershwin, they can’t take that away from us.
Now, is it hell to pay or just baseball, a game wonderfully unpredictable and eternally aggravating? Is that our imagination, or is Bruce Bochy’s beard and hair getting grayer by the inning?
No Posey, no Juan Uribe — remember him? — no Huff of 2010. The starting pitchers, notably Matt Cain, are under abnormal strain to be perfect because the offense is so bad and thus have been very imperfect. It isn’t easy when you realize giving up one run can be disastrous.
But with all the struggles, the Giants are doing well enough, hanging in with the ridiculously hot Arizona Diamondbacks, who at the moment are this season’s San Diego Padres.
Who would have thought Ryan Vogelsong — the classic castoff, the prodigal pitcher — would return so impressively? Or that Brandon Crawford would step from the minors and hit what might turn out to the biggest homer of the season, the grand slam which acted as tourniquet to stop the bleeding.
That so-called sweet torture of 2010 has to this point ebbed into just torture. Of those six losses the last week in May, four were by one run. You’re still waiting to exhale, but after the final out, there’s not much breathing room.
This was a team destined to succeed or fail on its pitching, and now two months into the season, nothing is any different. When the bullpen isn’t sharp, as was the case Tuesday against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Giants are doomed.
Tommy Lasorda, the retired Dodgers manager, used to say, “Keep it close, I’ll think of something.” With the Giants, who inevitably are always close, it’s best to think of taking a Maalox.
Maybe Brandon Belt proves an asset. Maybe Huff regains his confidence and his batting stroke. Maybe general manager Brian Sabean comes up with a blockbuster of a trade — forget Pudge Rodriguez — and the lineup is reinvigorated.
Most likely, however, not very much will be altered, other than Sandoval returning and maybe hitting well. The team will have to suffer and survive, hoping Tim Lincecum is there as always with his fastball and curve, Cain regains his dominance and Wilson can hang on to those 3-2 leads.
A year ago, the Giants seemed to get most of the breaks of the game. In 2011, the only break has been in the left leg of their catcher.