Well, the exact problem that haunted this team for much of 2011 came back to rear it's ugly head Tuesday night at AT&T Park, as Matt Cain's 8-inning gem went to no avail and the Giants couldn't score 2 runs against the Ricky Nolasco and the Miami bullpen.
|Cain Goes 8 Strong, Gets L|
Even though he got the win, Nolasco didn't pitch as well as Cain, giving up 7 hits over 7 2/3 innings compared to Cain's 8-inning, 4-hit outing. Problem is, the Marlins came up with the hit with RISP (Hanley Ramirez) and used Mike Stanton's big fly as just enough amo to beat a Giants offense that has started slumping back to it's 2011 ways. Now, that sentiment doesn't hold true for everyone in the lineup, as Sandoval continues to rake, hitting his 5th jack of the year and driving in his 15th run as the Giants only score Thursday. However, everyone else in this lineup besides Angel Pagan, has seen their batting average take a nose-dive over the last week or so. Melky Cabrera, who was hitting around .330 just a week ago, is down to .285, which isn't bad, but with his lack of ability to walk, makes him an easier out than when he's got his average up over .300. Also, Buster Posey had an 0-4 night Tuesday which dropped his team-leading average from .360 down to .333. A lot of baseball people wonder how Matt Cain got such a huge contract despite carrying a losing career record, well, he showed you exactly why Tuesday. Most of his losses come in this fashion, close, 1-2 run games in which the Giants fail to support him, either from the bullpens side or the offensive side. Heck, I even remember a few years back in Denver when the defense fell apart late in one of Cain's masterpieces when he had a 1-hitter going or something, and blew that game for him. The Giants right-hander pitched into a little better luck last season, but still only had 12 victories. With the quality of games and starts this kid provides, there's no reason he shouldn't win 15 games each year, even on a sub-par offense. It's like the Giants hitters feel they can ease up when they have Cain and Timmy out there cause they feel they have a certain victory, but that's not the case. They have to play as focused and hard for Timmy as they do for Zito or Vogey.
|April: .323, 5HR, 15 RBI|
So, as I was saying at the end of April, the Giants offense was one of the pleasant surprises of the first month, but over the last few days, they've gone into a rut, scoring just 8 runs over their last 4 games and it makes you wonder, which is the real Giants offense? The one we saw for most of April put up 4-6 runs per game, or the one we've seen this last week, averaging just 2.5 runs per outing? My guess is that it's a short rut and the team will dig out of it, but one problem that has been there all year, even when they were scoring, was their hitting w/RISP (5 for 32 on the season). They're speed has them better equipped this season to deal with avoiding pro-longed offensive slumps, but you still have to hit to drive guys in. I was hoping that more speed at the top would lead to more running, but they haven't really opened up the gates on the base paths yet. I'd like to see Boch start giving more guys "green lights" to his base-stealers. Most guys in the Giants lineup right now, even Buster and Panda, have the ability to swipe a base, but especially Pagan and Cabrera. I was hoping those guys would each have about 10 steals by now, but Boch has either been conservative with calling steals, or those guys just haven't gotten off to great starts in terms of running. Cabrera does have 5 steals, which has him on pace for 30, and that's good, but Pagan needs to run more, as does Schierholtz, Burris and Blanco. I mean, Gregor Blanco was put on this team primarily to be that late-inning pinch runner to be able to take a base when every one's expecting it, but he enters May with a measly 1 stolen base and 3 runs scored. The silver lining in wake of the offenses recent struggles, is that the horses, Cain and Lincecum, appear to have put their first starts behind them and are now pitching like we all expect those two to pitch. Now, if this team can put the two together and actually play some defense, they'll maybe take off on a 5-game winning streak or something and put them right back up their with LA.
: The Giants will look to Barry Zito to carry over his success from April into May and play stopper against the Marlins' Carlos Zambrano tonight. The Giants need to force Big Z to come into the zone cause he's been wild all year long. The Giants are 3-1 in Zito's 4 starts this year and Zito was quietly the starter of the Month in April, posting a 1.67 ERA with 14 K's to just 6 walks. The key to Zito's success this year has been his ability to cut down on walks, and he has to keep that control going tonight to keep the Giants above .500... Also, we'll be taking a look down on the farm in one of our upcoming posts, as there have been some nice stories going on down in the Giants minor league system to start the year and we'll check on what the top prospects are up to.