The Giants beat the Pirates 5-3 today, and for the second straight day it appeared as if the road team was destined to lose in the game’s early stages. Yesterday Jeff Samardzija served up his cheese with three meatballs. He didn’t even last until the fourth inning. Somehow the Giants picked away at Pittsburgh’s 6-1 lead and eventually held on to win 7-6 when Clint Hurdle kept sending a slow baserunner in the ninth inning and Buster Posey wasn’t having it.
None of it would’ve been possible if the kinda/sorta-maligned bullpen didn’t end the game with six scoreless frames, and they didn’t get contributions from Mac Williamson (a hit and three walks), Jarrett Parker (a pinch-hit single) and Ramiro Peña (two hits).
This morning’s affair looked like a loss before first pitch. Albert Suarez was pitching to Trevor Brown, and behind Suarez were four position players who weren’t on the Opening Day roster. The Pirates scored a run in the first and their first two hitters reached in the second inning. A 7-1 loss, complete with multiple rain delays, seemed inevitable. But Suarez struck out the next three, and the Giants scored four runs in the third inning. Joe Panik’s triple was the big blast, but four non-Opening Day guys (including Suarez) contributed to the rally.
So, this is when we have to remember not to get ahead of ourselves. Because the Giants are 47-27, and that’s an awfully good record. It’s not the best record in the majors, but it’s close.
Most wins in MLB:
Chicago Cubs: 47-23
Texas Rangers: 47-26
San Francisco Giants: 47-27
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) June 23, 2016
They’re on pace for 103 wins. If they go .500 over their final 88 games, they’ll finish 91-71. They’ve won 91 games twice in the last 11 seasons, six times in the last 22. You’d have to go back 23 years ago, to that beloved 1993 team (which went 103-59), to find a Giants squad that had a better record through 74 games.
None of the Giants teams from 2000-on started this well. 1993 Giants started 47-23, 53-27. https://t.co/049tKq84Ne
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) June 23, 2016
In case you’re wondering about their record through 74 games, the 1993 Giants were 50-24 after beating the expansion Rockies 7-2 on June 25. Mike Benjamin hit the Giants’ only homer and Bryan Hickerson got the win.
Laugh all you want at those names, but that’s kind of similar to what’s happening now. The 2016 Giants are 30-9 since losing 4-0 to the Blue Jays on May 10, despite Hunter Pence, Matt Duffy, Angel Pagan, Sergio Romo and Matt Cain spending time on the disabled list during that stretch. They’ve made do with outstanding starting pitching, particularly from the automatic win guys — Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto — and several players barely anyone expected to amount to much when the season began.
- Albert Suarez has given the Giants 36 2/3 innings with a 3.68 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. He’s not quite Yusmeiro Petit, but he’s done well enough in four starts and saved the Giants’ bullpen (and Bruce Bochy’s sanity) twice during Cain starts that went awry.
- Ramiro Peña is 8-for-17 since his call-up. That’s not going to last, but if that’s not an “even year B.S.” performance from a “who is that, again?” player through six games …
- Conor Gillaspie went 6-for-11 on the road trip after an 0-for-24 stretch dating back to May 15.
- Mac Williamson is flexin’ — he smashed a single yesterday and hit a home run well over the 410-feet marker in left-center today.
- Jarrett Parker has hit safely in his last six games (8-for-13), with three walks and just three strikeouts — a crazy low number compared to Parker’s standard K-rate.
- Cory Gearrin is the new Romo, leading the bullpen in ERA and HR/9 while settling in as the setup man.
- Derek Law has the bullpen’s best FIP and strikeouts-per-walk ratio.
Law was the one Giant who didn’t contribute to today’s win, but he deserves special mention after two scoreless innings last night in front of his friends and family. Law’s appearance was followed by Hunter Strickland and Josh Osich, who both touched 98 mph. Strickland came in and pitched another perfect inning today, with a few more 98 mph fastballs.
Even Santiago Casilla, the guy with the high blown save percentage who was on shaky ground before leaving the team to be with his wife as she gave birth to their baby daughter, is back on good terms with everyone after consecutive saves. And people are actually picking up Jake Peavy in fantasy leagues this week because he’s been pitching so well. Buyer beware, sure (no pun intended), but Peavy is another unexpected contributor.
Will all of these guys keep playing the way they have over the last week? Of course not, but it’s not like any of the regulars (save for perhaps Brandon Belt) are having career years, either. And there’s something we’re already seeing with this team that we really haven’t in recent regular seasons. When players are dealing with nagging injuries or have to go on the DL, the team doesn’t crumble. When the lineup isn’t full of regulars and they fall behind early, the team doesn’t crumble. Not that previous teams were like stale coffee cake whenever they dealt with less than perfect health, but depth had been an ongoing concern for the last several seasons.
They somehow got through it in 2014, thanks to Bumgarner and a bunch of crazy things happening like home runs from Travis freaking Ishikawa, of course.
I’m not sure if they’ll need Ishikawa (or this year’s version of Ishikawa) this season, not if Parker and Williamson continue to gain confidence and a better understanding of what they’re facing at this level. They could still use a reliever, because pitchers’ arms are finicky and the Giants are never fully comfortable with what they have in their bullpen, but doesn’t that group look significantly better now than it did a few weeks ago?
That’s not to say the Giants aren’t ripe for a minor plunge in the coming weeks. They’ve played more games than most MLB teams and they get one off day before the All-Star Break (July 7). But they don’t face a team with a winning record until they travel to Fenway on July 19, they’re on a roll, and they can’t take a breath now because the Dodgers keep winning.
Sure, one could point to their 44-24 start and second half near-collapse in 2014 (they went 44-50 the rest of the way). But the June Swoon isn’t happening. They’re 14-6 so far, which means they have already banked more wins in their most haunted month than they did in 2013 (10-17), 2014 (10-16) or 2015 (12-14). This team seems to have staying power. Maybe not 103-win staying power, but it’ll be interesting to see how they do this summer when their regulars start coming back from the DL.