We were alerted late in the evening last night here in the Shenandoah that our beloved Giants had a 9-0 lead at Busch Stadium going into the bottom of the seventh, that Madison Bumgarner had already struck out ten while allowing three hits, that our lineup, without Buster Posey and Brandon Belt, had chased Adam Wainwright off the mound in the fifth-- and our immediate reaction was, "Golden. The Giants are positively golden right now."
This was supposed to be a tough, defining series for the Giants, who'd been cavorting through both leagues' opposition of late. The Cardinals are the closest thing to a sure winner baseball has these days: only one losing season over the past fifteen, with seven division titles and four World Series appearances (two world championships), a proven track record of developing outstanding young position players and pitchers, plus consistently intelligent ownership and front-office decisions. A road series in St Louis the week of Memorial Day-- this is where visiting teams go to get eaten. Thursday we opined that a series split would prove the Giants are "for real," and late events seem to bear that out: right now a split would indeed show the Giants are real indeed-- real, in the sense of, yes, like any other team, they can be beaten.
Enough giddiness. There are 107 games left in the regular season, after all, and a .500 finish would leave us at just 89 or 90 wins, and a seven-and-a-half game lead at the end of May isn't a-- well, actually, it is a rather impressive lead, isn't it? This weekend four-gamer was the first "big" series of the year for the Giants, and it's already a success. Okay, fans-- resume giddiness.
Michael Morse, meet Aubrey Huff. (Mr Morse, Mr Huff... thank you.) The latest "I Got Somethin' To Prove" Giants slugger is making Brian Sabean look like a bloomin' genius again. He can strike out 150 times for all we care-- not too many guys slug .575 in AT&T Park. He's keeping his OBP above .350, and between he and Hunter (.362/.463) Pence, the clubhouse wull never lack for wackiness or intensity. Speaking of Pence, the dedicated hacker of old has walked 25 times in 216 AB's and his K/W ratio is 35/25 (!) The two-spot has been a godsend for both he and the Giants-- his 42 runs scored are second only to the phenomenal Troy Tulowitzki, and between he and leadoff man Angel (.326 average) Pagan, they've stolen 18 bases in 21 attempts, which is how it ought to be done. Seven Giants have 20 or more RBI-- in Belt's absence, Hector Sanchez has 21 to go with Belt's 18-- and six of the eight current starters are among the league's top 38 in homers (Belt, who's been out for three weeks, is still tied for 15th in the NL with 9). All this boils down to the Giants trailing only Colorado and Miami in runs scored.
Almost lost in all the fuss over Pence's mammoth three-run shot, Pablo Sandoval's continuing resurgence (2-for 5, 2 runs), Pagan and Morse doing what they do, and Gregor Blanco hitting like Tyler Colvin for the second straight game, was Madison Bumgarner posting the Giants' best pitching performance since Tim Hudson's April 2 SF debut. Now 7-3, "Bum" thrived as the Giants lineup made short work out of the anticipated "showdown" between he and Wainwright, who came into the game looking for his ninth win. Well, the two aces can compare notes, along with Tim Hudson, about six weeks from now in Minneapolis at the All-Star Game. Thanks mainly to those two, the Giants are also second in the league in ERA and first in WHIP. And Hudson's 44-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio is a singular thing of beauty; that alone ought to earn him the NL's designated starting assignment for July's classic at Target Field.
We mentioned Tyler Colvin earlier. This guy is 28 and has struggled all his career despite playing in the two best hitters' parks in the league, Wrigley Field and Coors Field. And yet, when we look at his career stats, we note the two seasons he played in over 130 games, he slugged over .500 each time. He's at .565 right now with the Giants, with 8 doubles in 46 at-bats. Between he and another out-of-nowhere surprise, Brandon Hicks, the Giants have added bottom-of-the-order power to their lineup-- and we can even add Brandon Crawford back into that mix; he has walked and slugged just enough to overcome his.237 average, and actually his SLG is about even with Pablo Sandoval's.
The current hot streak is such that Bruce Bochy sees no need to rush Matt Cain back into the rotation after Cain's two odd, but minor, injuries; who needs a "stopper" when you've won eight of nine and 21 of your last 29? Everyone's still concerned about Tim Lincecum, but his last lousy start was on May 7, and Ryan Vogelsong, whom we thought might be finished back in the spring, reeled off six fine starts in a row beginning in May, though the Cards gave him some trouble the night before last. Even losing Santiago Casilla hasn't hurt as much as anyone feared since Jean Machi has essentially duplicated Casilla's numbers in a similar role.
The Giants' Pythagorean projection puts them two games to the good right now; they have a 36-19 record while playing at a 34-21 pace. That's still better than any team in baseball right now. It's a long season, folks, but let's not forget to enjoy this moment.