Fog The Dodgers

September 16

As far as the Giants were concerned, it was a perfect day.

The Fog rolled into San Francisco with a vengeance, engulfed the Dodgers, and sent them screaming out of town. The only thing missing was Adrienne Barbeau and her twins. By the end of the night, the Giants were in first place in the National League West for the first time since Willie Mays’ birthday, May 6th. They’re also tied for first in the NL Wild Card after a zaftig 10-2 win over Los Angeles.

The Giants took care of business, and less importantly, won the season series from their rivals. They got a career-high 12 strikeouts from Jonathan Sanchez and three long home runs, but for all the offense the key play was on defense: the Freddy Sanchez stop in the first inning kept the Dodgers from taking a 2-0 lead and changed the whole complexion of the game.

This was not going to be a typical nail-biter, but rather a rout. There is no in-between for the Giants, it’s feast or famine. That’s what happens when you have a team with some sock that rarely sees a pitch it didn’t like.

Even with all the additions they’ve made they’re still a free-swinging bunch, but there are a couple of major differences now: the Giants have hit 140 home runs this season, 18 more than they hit all of last year. They are able to mount rallies with two outs and they have enough power to come back in games.

There’s still a major problem for the offense, and it’s the main reason you will see more 1-0 games than 10-2 games down the stretch: they are still a very poor situational hitting team. Asking them to get a runner home from third with less than two outs is like asking The Situation to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Fuhgeddaboutit. If they don’t hit home runs, they’re going to struggle to score.

Another issue is the leadoff spot. The Giants might be able to get away with the absence of Andres Torres for another week or so, as long as they’re facing left-handed pitchers. Edgar Renteria had four hits Thursday night and is hitting over .300 against lefties, so you can lock him in when a Randy Wolf or Chris Narveson is on the mound.

Torres was hitting only .225 against lefties, so over the next week the Giants might be able to get by without him. If Renteria stays hot, the veteran shortstop may get the nod against righties, too. If not, perhaps Mike Fontenot can get a shot. Leading off Renteria against lefties also allows the Giants to move Juan Uribe to third and bench the currently-clueless Pablo Sandoval.

We know a couple of things: Eugenio Velez and Aaron Rowand won’t ever see the leadoff spot, and I’d be happy if they don’t see the field again this year unless it’s a blowout. Velez is the same old impatient hitter without a plan, while Rowand hasn’t squared up a ball since May. The Giants could mix and match among Jose Guillen, Cody Ross and Nate Schierholtz to minimize Rowand’s at-bats.

So the offense is a known quantity. The question down the stretch is this: will they be able to ride their pitching into the postseason ? They have the best ERA in baseball ( 1.63 ) this month, and August is but a memory. The rotation, even with Barry Zito, has returned as the strength of the team, and will have to be this good for the Giants to make the playoffs.

One big reason for the resurgence of the rotation is Sanchez. I admit it. I was wrong about him.

I thought he would never progress beyond the schizo Sanchez we’ve seen the last couple of years, but he has stepped it up during the stretch drive. The only asterisk is that he dominated a spiritless Dodger lineup that lacked Andre Ethier, but he was terrific nonetheless. He can now add a fairly nasty splitter to his repertoire and he is showing signs of maturity when things get tough.

So what does the Magic 8 Ball say about the Giants’ chances the final two weeks ?

“Fair To Quite Fair.”

Gee, thanks a lot.

It would not be surprising if the Giants and Rockies emerge as playoff teams from the NL West, but the Padres will get Chris Young back this weekend. How much he can contribute to a pennant race after a five-month layoff ? We’ll see Saturday in St. Louis.

I was an early believer in the Padres and they’ve done a tremendous job staying atop the division as long as they can — but despite their great pitching, I have a feeling they’re running out of gas as they begin a tough road trip. Their goal now has to be getting to the final weekend in San Francisco with something on the line.

( Adrienne Barbeau factoids: She was a graduate of Del Mar High School in San Jose. “The Fog” was directed by her then-husband John Carpenter, and was probably her crowning achievement in film. Either that, or “Cannibal Women In The Avocado Jungle of Death” with Bill Maher and Shannon Tweed. She gave birth to twins at the age of 51 — twin babies. )

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