The Giants are doing what they have to do right now and beating the teams they’re supposed to beat. A 2-0 win yesterday moved them to within three games of the slumping Dodgers as they go for their first series sweep this afternoon. Here are some thoughts on Sunday’s game.
Better Lucky Than Good
Let me get this out of the way right up front. Barry Zito is a very good #5 starter in the NL. In fact, a quick scan of the rotations in the NL and I’m willing to say he’s one of the 3 or 4 best in the league, all things considered. That said, he better be at home thanking his lucky stars that he plays his home games at AT&T Park.
Perhaps no pitcher in baseball benefits more from the cozy confines of their home park as much as Zito and yesterday was no exception. Pitching against one of the worst teams in baseball, Zito managed to get through 8.1 innings with only 96 pitches and didn’t allow a run for the first time since his complete game shutout on April 9th. However for all the good work Zito did yesterday, it very easily could have gone the other way if not for the spacious outfield dimensions at AT&T and the range provided by the Three Amigos.
Gregor Blanco saved Zito multiple times going deep into Triple’s Alley to track down fly balls and Angel Pagan made a spectacular play, robbing Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro of extra bases. It didn’t stop in the outfield either as Joaquin Arias made a couple fantastic plays at third and Brandon Crawford had one of his best days with the glove all year.
Looking at Zito’s numbers so far this year it’s easy to see just how unsustainable this run of quality starts is. At home Zito is carrying a 2.59 ERA and a crazy-low .238 BABIP, showing just how much he relies on his home park to prop up his performances. On the road he’s sitting at a 3.34 ERA with a .250 BABIP, which means he’s getting nearly as lucky on the road as he is at home and his ERA is nearly a run higher.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy having Zito at the back end of the rotation as he seems to have finally settled in to his role and is pitching more like the soft-tossing lefty he has become. In years past he seemed to try and recapture his glory days when the fastball touched 90 mph and he could challenge hitters in the zone. These days his game plan is much more suited to his skill set and he is a better pitcher for it. Enjoy it while it lasts, just don’t get used to seeing his ERA under 3.00. It’s only a matter of time before he hits a rough patch and returns to something more closely resembling his career 4.43 ERA with the Giants.
What do you get when you mix two pitch-to-contact lefties, a pitcher-friendly ballpark and two anemic offenses on a Sunday afternoon? If you guessed a 2-hour and 23-minute sprint to the finish line, you are correct.
Apparently someone forgot to tell the players that it wasn’t get away day and that they had to face each other one more time the next day. Of course the game wasn’t short for everyone…
This is what teammates are for…
Arias and Blanco, Twin Saviors
Think about how ludicrous this next statement would have sounded if you read it in early April.
Joaquin Arias and Gregor Blanco have been absolutely key in keeping the Giants in the hunt and quite frankly I’m not sure what they would have done without them.
Let that sink in for a second. You good? Ok, like I was saying, Arias and Blanco are the latest scrap heap additions to a roster that has seen its fair share of them over the last few years, and these guys have really saved the Giants so far this season. Blanco didn’t have a great game on Sunday, but he did score a run in the 8th that pretty much sealed the game and did so going first to home on a single by Melky Cabrera. Big props to the best third base coach in the league, Tim Flannery, but full marks to Blanco for having the instincts and raw speed to make something happen.
Arias meanwhile was really the star of the day as his RBI single in the 5th broke the deadlock and as I mentioned above, he absolutely sparkled with the glove, saving Zito on multiple occasions. The overall numbers have not been pretty for Arias, but his contributions in the field simply cannot be overlooked as the team waits for the return of Pablo Sandoval. If he’s not the second baseman when the Panda returns I will be shocked.
Both Arias and Blanco have injected life into a ball club that quite frankly can use as much life as they can get. Credit to Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy for finding these guys and making the most of their skills.
The Giants and Cubs are back at it again in a few hours as the Giants go for the sweep. Check back later for a recap of that game as well as a look at who the Giants pick in today’s MLB Draft (Marcus Stroman, please).