Finding themselves in a tie for first place after an impressive four game, weekend series, the San Francisco Giants can now control their own destiny for the rest of the season.
Taking three of the four game set, which found the team’s pitching shutting down the first place San Diego Padres, places the team percentage points behind the Friars. Additionally, San Diego now heads up to Colorado to duke it out with the hard charging Rockies. Provided that the Giants continue their winning ways when the Dodgers hit town, this series could prove most advantageous. If the Giants can sweep the Dodgers (who appear to have mailed in this season), then the loser of the Padres/Rockies will find themselves sinking in the mud of the NL West. After the three game set, the Giants will host the Brewers, then travel to Chicago to face the Cubs. What that means is that while wins in these series would be very nice, a loss is not catastrophic as it would only mean 1/2 game in the standings. Additionally, the distance created by the current series in Denver will give the team some wiggle room.
There are several questions that must be mused over, if not outright addressed during this stretch run.
1. Should Zito be skipped?- Mr. Millions has been nothing short of abyssmal lately. The team won’t play another game on Monday. That means that they can skip his turn in the rotation several times when it comes around. The other four are solid, right now. However, it’s important to keep him starting. Even though he has been awful, he did alright in his last outing and they are paying him to do something. That something is to pitch. Abandon thoughts of skipping him. In the playoffs would be another story.
2. Who plays center? Centerfielder and leadoff hitter extraordinaire Andres Torres is lost for an indefinite amount of time after having had an appendectomy. He might be back for the playoffs. Several options are Eugenio Velez, Cody Ross, Darren Ford, and Nate Schierholtz. Note, I didn’t say Aaron Rowand. No more need be said on that one. Ford has been exciting at times. Ross has been a hitting vacuum (but for how long?). Schierholtz has been hot with the bat, of late, but can he play center? I don’t know if I would risk that one. Velez is awesome at times, but can be very streaky. I think I would go with Velez for several starts. If he doesn’t do it, go with Ross or Ford. The former is a veteran with pop and should be alright. The former is a rookie who might be able to fill the bill (though he has yet to have an at bat in the majors).
3. How many will Lincecum win? 17. He’s a stud again. Next question.
4. What about Pablo Sandoval? Leave him in the lineup. When he catches fire, you want him in there. He needs to be elevating the ball to be effective. Line drives don’t hurt, either.
This stretch run will be one of the most entertaining in memory. I’m looking forward to it. The Giants start it off by playing the Dodgers tomorrow night. Go Giants!!!