Giants Clinch NL West Tie
Now, even if the Giants hold off the D-Backs and win, and the Cubs take care of business vs. the Pads tonight and the magic number drops to 1, the division, again, is not necessarily theirs. The Giants will have to finish the season off against the Padres, and the Pads could still take the West with a sweep this weekend. And let's not forget that the Padres really have owned the Giants throughout 2010 up until the Giants took their most recent 4-game set. Prior to that series, the Giants were 2-10 vs. San Diego this year and have really been having problems with them over the last few seasons. However, this really is a different Giants ball-club than what the Padres have seen for much of the last 3 or 4 years, and they're really doing what they need to be doing in order to clinch this division. They're on the verge of sweeping the D-Backs, as they once again scored 3+ runs in each game, and that's really been the magic number for the Giants offense. If they can just get to 3 runs, and hopefully within the first 5 innings of the game, then 95% of the time, they're going to win those games. Especially now that this bullpen has really toughened up and made this complete pitching staff the best in the NL in my opinion. It didn't seem like much at the time, but those moves Sabean made for Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez at the deadline have really paid off. Five Giants relievers (Lopez, Ramirez, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla carry ERA's at 2.28 or lower, which gives you an idea on just how effective the Giants 'bully has been recently.
It's not just the bullpen and the starting pitching though, the offense looks like they're finally hitting with at least some consistency, but mostly, they're using the long ball to put runs on the board, something which hasn't really been done here since the days Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent. Home runs accounted for all 4 of the Giants runs Thursday, as Pablo Sandoval and Andres Torres each had solo jobs, and Buster Posey hit a 2-run jack to give him 17 on the year. The Giants have all the sudden become a team that can, and will beat you with the "3-run homer", as they say. Nobody on the team is necessarily having a huge home run year, but just about everyone in the lineup has home run power. Bringing in Aubrey Huff this offseason was a start, as he's ended up being one of the best bargains of 2010 hitting .290 with 26 hr and 87 RBI heading into the season's final weekend. Juan Uribe is second on the team with 23, then there's Pat Burrell and Buster Posey, who have 18 and 17 respectively, but neither player has gotten close to a full-season's worth of at-bats. Burrell has hit his 18 bombs over the course of just 275 at-bats with San Francisco. Posey wasn't called up until the very end of May, and wasn't a full-timer right off the bat, so his 17 home runs in 389 rookie at-bats have been mighty impressive. Lead-off man Andres Torres is 5th on the team with 16 hr's in his surprising break-out 2010 season. Also in the everyday lineup is newcomer Jose Guillen, who has hit only 3 jacks in his 120 at-bats in SF, but had 16 with KC which would puts him at 19 for the year. Pablo Sandoval, who hit 25 last season, has had an off-year with only 13 in 2010, but absolutely brings that threat to the batters box, and may erupt at any time.
Pitching Match-Ups for SD Series: With the way the Giants rotation lines up, will be Matty Cain going Friday (in the potential division clincher), followed by Barry Zito Saturday, then Jonathan Sanchez Sunday. However, if the Padres manage to win the first 2 games of the series, it wouldn't surprise me the least to see Bochy start Lincecum in the finale on 3-days rest. If that's what it came down to, I think that's the day Padres' young ace Mat Latos is next scheduled to start, so that could be one for the ages. Let's hope it doesn't get to that though.