Rotation gives Giants a glimmer of hope

A horrendous month of June ended with a sliver of hope for the defending World Series champs.

The Giants snapped their six-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday as Madison Bumgarner followed up Matt Cain's gem with another spiffy outing of his own.

True, the fan base has 99 reasons to be cynical at the season's midway point, but the picture is actually brighter than it was on June 1 because the top of the rotation is finally returning to form.

Starting pitching has been the foundation of the Giants' success since Barry Bonds retired in 2007. In 2010, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez provided the 1-2-3 punch that carried the Giants into the playoffs and last year Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner played a similar role as the team won its second title in three years.

Thirty days ago, the Giants had a better record, two games above .500, but the starting pitching was atrocious, having produced a league low 22 quality starts. At the time, Cain was 4-3 with a 5.45 ERA, Bumgarner was coming off a month in which he was 1-3 with a 5.17 ERA and Vogelsong had just gone on the shelf after producing a 7.19 ERA in nine starts.

As the pitching floundered, some questioned whether the arms were fatigued from the extra workload of two postseason runs. But those concerns can be tossed in McCovey Cove in the wake of Cain and Bumgarner's performances in Colorado this weekend.

Cain put together his best outing of the season on Saturday, retiring the last 20 batters he faced in an eight-inning, three-hit no decision. In his last five starts, he's thrown a 1.82 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP on the stat sheet — ace numbers without question.

Over the same stretch, Bumgarner has been equally sharp, going 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA.

Despite their June stuff, the Giants dropped to 39-42, the first time they've been below the .500-mark in July since 2008. But the team is waffling for different reasons now and they are problems that can be fixed in the long run.

As soon as Cain and Bumgarner figured things out, the Giants bats and bullpen froze up, in large part because of injuries to Santiago Casilla, Chad Gaudin, Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro and Brandon Crawford. Bruce Bochy even had to pull Brandon Belt, one of his hottest hitters, out of the lineup this weekend because Buster Posey's legs were too tight to crouch behind home plate.

But this series of unfortunate events is unlikely to continue in perpetuity. The bats will wake up sooner or later and Casilla and Gaudin could both return this weekend, which would give the bullpen a shot, especially if Mike Kickham proves he's capable of holding down the fifth spot in the rotation.

The big question is whether the team can obtain that much-needed No. 3 starter in a trade before the deadline to fill the Sanchez/Vogelsong role. If Brian Sabean can find support for Cain and Bumgarner up top, the Giants should have enough pitching to lift the fog before the calendar turns to August.

Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.

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