We Almost Believe

August 3

                  Step by step, the San Francisco Giants are creeping toward for-realness.

                  First was hanging in the playoff hunt through July, then came the Garko and Sanchez deals, and this weekend beating the World Series champs rather convincingly, a team that was on a serious scald until the San Francisco fog cooled them down.

                  The next and final step for the Giants is to become a decent road team.

                 Although the Giants took three out of four from the Phillies, the big winner was the ballpark.  Nearly a decade old, and the bloom is barely off the rose.  A full house, a beautiful day, and a park that was positively Kryptonite for the Phillies’ mighty sluggers.

                 We posed this question on the air Thursday morning:  how many home runs in Philadelphia become long fly ball outs at A-T-and-T Park?  The rhetorical answer was to ask Aaron Rowand, whose longball total was sliced in half in the move from Philly to San Francisco.  Now the rhetorical answer might be, just ask Jayson Werth.  Or Raul Ibanez.  Or Ryan Howard, who had an awful weekend.

                The clubbing Giants of the past are gone,  and now they have the kind of lineup that fits the ballpark in the so-called post-steroid era.  It sure doesn’t fit Philly’s style.  Sunday’s 7-3 win was especially significant, topping off a 6-1 homestand.  Barry Zito didn’t shrink in the face of Charlie Manuel’s meat-grinder lineup, and the Giants did something they rarely do, rallying from a 3-1 deficit.  Zito even started the rally with a single.

               Enter the newest Giant, Freddy Sanchez.  I lobbied for this guy hard on the air on the Giants postgame last Sunday and the Giants front office finally got him Thursday.  He is a tough out, once led the league in doubles in addition to snaring the batting title, and he delivered the biggest hit in his first game, a game-tying, two run double. 

               That’s how you endear yourself to new teammates.  Ryan Garko should take a page from Freddy’s book.  He’s clearly pressing, and he played a Pedro Feliz popup into a Candlestick-like single at first base.  Fortunately it didn’t hurt.

              Anyway, the new Giants lineup is clearly a bit more dangerous, even with Garko’s bat quiet.  One benefit of Garko’s acquisition is that it might have lit a fire under Travis Ishikawa, who had a pretty good weekend.  Also, if the new Eugenio Velez is the real Velez, another dimension has been added to the Giants’ attack.  Nate Schierholtz should also return this week.  All that, along with the pitching and the great home record, make the Giants legitimate contenders ’til the end of the season.

             Now, to be truly legit they need to win more on the road.  Something close to .500 the rest of the way might be good enough to get to the post-season, considering what a juggernaut this club appears to be at home.  With a couple of more adjustments, this could be done.

             First, get a back-end starter.  Ryan Sadowski has been found out, and he might not be able to go more than five innings again this season.  Is there someone else in the Giants farm system who can step up, or can they pick up someone through a waiver deal this month?  Or will Randy Johnson come back in September?

            Second, get Bengie Molina out of the cleanup spot.  He is killing the Giants right now.  They scored seven runs without him today, against one of the top lefties in baseball, Cole Hamels.  A press box colleague asked me Saturday who I would replace Molina with, and I said “anyone.” 

            The Giants should re-sign Molina to build a bridge to Buster Posey in 2011, and it looks like his price is dropping because he looks tired.  He is 35, his workload needs to drop, and he needs to be dropped to fifth or sixth in the order.  Maybe that’s another waiver deal: an experienced backup catcher, although Eli Whiteside is my new favorite for the gracious way he handled my mediocre first pitch last week.  

            The Rockies might still have the edge in the Wild Card pursuit.  They still have a far superior hitting lineup and just enough pitching, and they have been very good for a long stretch.  In many ways they remind me of the 2007 NL Champions, but it looks like the Giants are going to give them a run, right into the fall.  Could Giants fans have a “We Believe” kind of October?

One Response to “We Almost Believe”

  1. Don Says:

    I agree with your thoughts on Bengie. I think he can still be productive but needs to be moved from the 4th slot and given more days off. Perhaps Pablo could catch a bit more and give Uribe a few more starts at 3rd. Gives Uribe a few more at bats to stay sharp as they will now be few and far between with Freddie at second and would give Bengie the much needed days off. Winn needs to be a late game defensive replacement and 4th outfielder. He is killing the Giants with his bat right now and Nate has been having some great at bats lateley before the injury. I hope this is the real Velez because I like this one. He seems to not be mailing in at bats. As usual Ray, great comments.

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