Giants Return After 4-2 Road-Trip
Although they did suffer a few heartbreakers in New York, and really could have had a 6-0 road-trip had a few things gone a bit differently, Bruce Bochy has to be pleased with the way his club is playing right now.
The teams only 2 losses on the trip were due to late game heroics by the New York Mets, so they playing well even in the games they aren't winning right now. It's a bit surprising too because they're doing it with two of their most important offensive pieces under-performing. Both Mark DeRosa and Pablo Sandoval had forgettable road-trips, and have really had a terrible few weeks here in May so far. So far in May, Sandoval is hitting just .081 with 1 RBI and just 3 hits in 37 at-bats. DeRosa isn't much better, sitting at .148 with 3 RBI and 4 hits in his 27 at-bats this month. The reason why the Giants have been able to weather the storm without those guys hitting has been the stand-out play of youngsters Nate Schierholtz and Matt Downs. Schierholtz has finally gotten his everyday shot, and he's making his mark. He's not hitting with an abundance of power, but he's hitting .351 which will put him amongst the NL batting average leaders as soon as he hits the minimum plate-appearance mark which will be very soon at the rate he's now playing. He's also been tremendous in right field with that glove and throwing arm. Downs, who's hitting right behind Schierholtz, is hitting .400 this month, .359 overall and will have second base to himself for the next 2 weeks with Renteria out. Also, Aaron Rowand has been on fire since his return from the DL, hitting .344 with 3 homers and 11 RBI.
Now the Giants return to AT&T Park for a 3-game showdown with the co-NL West leading San Diego Padres. Right now, with the rest of the division struggling below .500, this is time for the Giants to separate themselves not only from San Diego, but the rest of the division as well, which is why this makes this such a key series for the Giants. They'll send the hottest pitcher in baseball, Barry Zito, to the hill vs. a guy who's been a huge lift for the Pads as well, Wade Leblanc. Zito has been lights out all season long, and is off to the best start of his career. He hasn't yet had a start in which he failed to make it through at least 6 innings, and all 6 of his starts so far have been "quality starts". This has all lead to his incredible 5-0 record, 1.49 era and 0.92 WHIP. He's showing how much of a help he can be to this team when he pitches well. If Zito started this year like he had the last 3, the Giants aren't sitting in first place right now, but probably floating around .500 like the Dodgers and Rockies. You can visually see the difference in body language and confidence from this year compared to the past. I don't think this is a fluke. He's going to eventually lose, and his era will rise, but I think Zito is back to form.
It's not just Zito though, all the Giants starters, minus Todd Wellemeyer, have been brilliant. And speaking of Wellemeyer, the Giants may have to make a move in his spot due to his 9.61 road era. I know it's all hindsight now, but I never was a big fan of letting Kevin Corriea walk, as he was extremely versatile and was really improving before getting hurt in 2008 (as he's shown by going 16-13 with a sub-4 era in his 39 starts with San Diego). It's kind of got me wondering... With Madison Bumgarner struggling in Fresno, and probably not going to be counted on for much this season, the Giants may want to think about adding another starter from outside the organization. I know the fans will probably want them to add a bat if they do make a deal, but imagine what another solid starting pitcher would do for this rotation. I'm not talking about an ace, but another Brad Penny type from a year ago. I don't think another middle of the line hitter like a Mark DeRosa or Aubrey Huff would make a huge difference on this team, so unless they can get a stud hitter like a Lance Berkman, they should bulletproof their starting rotation by adding a legit fifth man in my opinion.