Walcoff: Giants playing must-watch baseball

Forget TV’s new fall lineup of shows. The Giants are the season’s best prime-time attraction. Not only does San Francisco have a growing cast of talented characters, there’s a different leading man every night.

After foolishly guaranteeing a sweep of the San Diego Padres, Jonathan Sanchez traded his dunce cap for a crown following back-to-back gems against the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers. Tim Lincecum rediscovered his inner Freak, just as fans were freaking out over his August funk. Matt Cain may be saddled with a .500 record (10-10) but he’s been the team’s most consistent starter with the staff’s lowest ERA at 3.18. Madison Bumgarner’s birth certificate says he’s only 21, but the country-cool rookie has the mound demeanor of a veteran and a 2.25 road ERA to prove it.

Brian Wilson entered Tuesday with an NL-leading 41 saves and has a good chance of breaking Rod Beck’s club record of 48 saves set in 1993. Sure, Barry Zito can’t seem to pitch his way out of Bruce Bochy’s doghouse, but if the other four starters keep rolling, the Giants won’t need Zito.

What they do need and are finally getting is a resurgent Pablo Sandoval, who hit .312 in August with six homers. Freddy Sanchez also battled through a nasty summer slump and is playing the kind of gritty, sharp baseball (.356 in August) that once won him a batting title.

Clutch hitting remains an issue, but not for Aubrey Huff and Juan Uribe, who rank 1-2 on the team in homers and RBIs and seem to thrive on tense, late-inning at-bats.

The team’s most pleasant surprise, Andres Torres, may be a little wrung out after playing every day for the first time in his career, but at least the Giants now have multiple options in center field to give him a rest.

When the drama revs up in San Diego on Thursday in the battle for best in the NL West, keep this not-so-fun fact in mind. The Padres’ “Big Four”: Matt Latos, Clayton Richard, Jon Garland and Wade LeBlanc have started 10 games against the Giants this season and not once has any of them given up more than two runs. However, most of the Padres’ success came before S.F. added strong right-handed hitters Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen and Cody Ross. The Giants finally have a team worthy of top billing.

 

LIGHTS OUT

Here’s another way the ever cost-conscious A’s can save money: Turn off the lights.

The A’s have the best day game record in baseball, 32-15. So, why play at night?

It certainly can’t be to accommodate the 12,000 or so fans who show up on a typical midweek night game at the Oakland Coliseum.

 

OFFENSIVE OPTIONS

Niners fans: Are you ready for the Wild Buckeye? Newly acquired quarterback Troy Smith isn’t a great passer, but he’s a tough and shifty runner. The former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State averaged almost 7.8 yards a carry in three NFL seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye could have quite an intriguing weapon with Smith taking snaps in front of Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook or Anthony
Dixon.

 

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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