The Giants were just settling into afternoon BP when the Dodgers finalized another loss, the ninth in their last 12 games. The Dodgers were able to pull out Game 2 of their doubleheader in Washington, D.C. after losing a 6-run lead, but that was also around the time that Pablo Sandoval hit a 3-run home run to take another early lead in a game they would eventually win 7-1.
If you think this sort of thing is becoming routine, that’s because it is. The Giants have scored first, in the first three innings each time, in their past seven games. Lately the Giants have become the kind of team that goes about things clinically — nobody seems hurried or as if they’re fighting through frayed nerves. You get a lead, you hold onto it by making a few spectacular defensive plays and limiting mistakes, then Bruce Bochy makes six or seven pitching changes in the last few innings.
But even that didn’t happen tonight, as Matthew Thomas Cain once again displayed that he is the Giants’ 2012 ace (more on that in the BASGs). After allowing 1 earned run and striking out 8 over 8 innings, Cain moved his numbers for the season to 207.1 IP, 185 strikeouts, with an ERA of 2.86. What seems even more important now is that with certain Giants starters looking like they need to get away from the game for a couple weeks, Cain is elevating his at the right time.
One might say the same about Sandoval and Gregor Blanco. Both are vital to the Giants’ hopes of a fruitful postseason run. Three games through this series with the Rockies, both suddenly look much, much better.
Sandoval’s home run was unexpected; that’s how it happens when a player goes 43 games and 181 plate appearances between homers. He didn’t stop there, throwing in a pair of singles. Add a couple diving plays in Games 1 and 2 of this series (well, a dive/fall on Monday night and a pretty sweet dive on Tuesday) to his 6-for-12 plus a walk output offensively, and it seems possible that Sandoval is … well, I don’t know about BACK, but certainly a lot more dangerous.
When Sandoval caught the final out on Wednesday night in foul territory, he pounded the railing next to the dugout happily. It’s almost like the many troubles that Sandoval has faced (okay, in some cases caused) this season are fading in the rearview — kind of like the Dodgers, who now find themselves nine games back in a division many thought was theirs after a trade that Magic Johnson will have a very difficult time explaining to his wife.
How happy was Sandoval after the game ended? Well, maybe not quite as happy as this .GIF portrays, but close.
Blanco’s shoulder started bothering him on the last road trip, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Giants are desperate for left field production, Brandon Belt is a really good first baseman but as a left fielder his awkwardness may not translate as well, and Xavier Nady injured his hamstring and isn’t a surefire Major Leaguer anymore when healthy.
Blanco’s fielding has always been top flight, and his offense seemed to pick up a little last week with a 5-game hitting streak. Blanco hit an Ichiro-like double down the left field line on Tuesday night in his only plate appearance and on Wednesday he went 3-for-4 with a stolen base. A lot of media people are talking about whether or not the Giants would bring back Melky Cabrera in a playoff series, and most feel like there’s no chance.
I don’t understand why the Giants would put their foot down on this issue, for the very first time in franchise history, now with Cabrera. The players are upset that he left them hanging? It’s professional sports, they’ll get over it. If the Giants feel like they need Cabrera to win and that he can help them without the aid of extra testosterone, the Giants will seriously consider inviting him back. But if Blanco seizes the opportunity and thrives, the Cabrera option won’t be as tempting.
– I saw a tweet from @SFG_Stats about how Cain had gotten 18 swing-throughs, so I asked Cain about that and whether one pitch was working particularly well for him. Then I checked the Brooks PitchFX numbers after I got back upstairs and saw that he actually got 22 whiffs. Cain talked about taking advantage of the Rockies’ hitters aggressiveness. In other news, Cain’s playoff ‘fro is getting pretty substantial.
Video length: 21 seconds
– Bruce Bochy on a rare night where he didn’t wear out a path from the dugout to the mound with several pitching changes. “I’ll have to get on the treadmill tonight, get my workout in.”
– Is there a prize for getting Bochy to call Cain a “horse”? I would imagine I’m not exactly in exclusive company, but that’s what I did tonight when I asked if Cain is the ace of the staff at this point (Bochy would not go that far).
Video length: 52 seconds
– Oh yeah, Angel Pagan and the future National League MVP (it’s coming, don’t worry) both came up with two hits apiece. Pagan’s going to get to 30 stolen bases too, just watch (he stole No. 27 on Wednesday night).
– Cain on Sandoval’s homer: “We were actually talking to him earlier today, he hadn’t hit a home run since like three years ago. Bum was giving him some grief.”
Video length: 21 seconds
– Sandoval talked about his home run, jumping around in the dugout with Brian Wilson and what Cain talked about in the video above. I asked Sandoval if Bumgarner said anything to him in the dugout.
“Yeah, I said something to him,” Sandoval said. “I said, ‘See, finally I got one.'” Apparently Bumgarner was giving Sandoval a hard time since he had hit TWO home runs since Sandoval’s last one back on July 8. Before Wednesday night Sandoval hadn’t hit a HR at home since June 29.
Video length: 1:05
– We all know clubhouse chemistry comes from winning, not the other way around. But it’s still interesting to hear Cain, a clear leader in that Giants clubhouse, talk about the current vibe in there. The Giants are having fun, and they’re getting awfully close to clinching the Division at home. The Magic Number? That now stands at five. In about 12 hours from the time this post goes live, the Giants will try to push that number to four.
Video length: 19 seconds