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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Giants counting days until All-Star break

For a club with the recent struggles the Giants have had and the way they're banged up and in need of a rest right now, the All-Star break cannot come soon enough.

Last week, we discussed at length some of the issues with the pitching staff, both relief and in the rotation, but right now the team's offense looks tired and are in the midst of a prolonged slump. This offense went through the first 2 months of the season hitting for both power and average, making run-scoring pretty much a non-issue. It helped them get out to that huge lead in the West and to the best record in all of baseball. However, injuries have struck, and some of the guys that started out the year on a tear have mellowed out a bit, and all of the sudden the offense is looking like it's 2013 all over again. OK, not quite that bad, but not certainly not good. The Giants are hoping to get Angel Pagan back soon after the All-Star break, but an exact date has yet to be determined. Losing him really has caused a ripple effect as it's left the team without a true leadoff hitter, forcing Hunter Pence into duties with Gregor Blanco struggling. The Giants need Pence in the middle of the order in a run-producing role. He's been successful in the number 2 hole for most of the season and would probably do fine in the leadoff spot, but it's best for the team when this guy is somewhere towards the middle. Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse each had hits in Tuesday's loss in Oakland, but they've been cold over the last couple of weeks and haven't been driving in runs in the limited opportunities they've been given and moving Pence down would be a huge boost.

The move may not be far off either, as the Giants could be getting some real good news in the next week to ten days. Marco Scutaro, who's been MIA all spring and throughout the season to this point, started a rehab assignment with Fresno Monday and had a hit in three at-bats. The veteran second basemen says he feels very good, and at this point it's just getting him back up to game speed and building his endurance to handle the 9 inning game day after day. So long as he avoids and set-backs though, which as we know is no certainty, he could be back soon after the all-star break himself. Assuming he does come back and can play nearly everyday, he very well could assume the leadoff role until Pagan returned, at which time they'd each go back to their regular spots. Again, it's a big if, but if they can get Pagan and Scutaro back in the next two weeks, this team will be at full strength for the first time all year. I'd imagine Belt would stay in the third spot, Posey fourth, Pence fifth, Sandoval sixth and Morse seventh. It would finally give the Giants and Bochy the lineup they envisioned this winter after they inked Morse.

I'm gonna stay optimistic on Scutaro just because he sounds optimistic about his health for the first time since before last season. Also because Giants' second basemen are hitting a combined .179 this season and they desperately need that steady bat back in the lineup. Pagan is still worrying me a bit because he's now being sent to where Scutaro spent the first 3 months of the year in Arizona at extended spring training but Bochy's expecting him back soon after the break so I guess it can't be too bad. It's just that leadoff role is so crucial and Pagan has been so good there and makes such a difference in this lineup when he's healthy that he'd be tough to replace. Hopefully they won't have to.

Notes: Brandon Crawford is one of the guys who is in desperate need of the all-star break. The Giants have been unable to rest him much in the first half and his production both at the plate and in the field has taken a hit lately... Santiago Casilla (1.08 ERA) is a perfect 2 for 2 in save opportunities since being named closer last week. He hasn't allowed a run since April 27th and if the Giants don't add a closer before the deadline, appears to be the main man down the stretch... As further testament to the team's offensive struggles, they mustered just one run in the two-game set across the bay vs. a strong Oakland pitching staff. On top of that, All-Star Madison Bumgarner got raked hard for the third consecutive start on Tuesday, giving up 6 runs on 10 hits over 7 innings.
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