Friday, July 1, 2016

"I'm My Own DH"

Okay, maybe we haven't a future as writers of novelty C&W songs. Still, from a purely baseball perspective, Madison Bumgarner's turn at bat last night-- a National League pitcher batting for himself in an American League park where the designated hitter rules supreme-- -- was about the coolest thing since, oh, since the last cool thing happened. Rising to the occasion, "Bum" led off the third inning with a ringing double that started an explosion in which six Giants scored before any were out, capped with back-to-back homers by Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford. From a purely team perspective, it gave Bumgarner and the Giants a lead that carried them to a much-needed win, avoiding a four-game home-and-away backyard sweep by those annoying Oakland A's.

The first three games of this series had seen a truly wretched start by Jeff Samardzija and a strange three-error frustration derby for Jake Peavy sandwiched around the beleaguered bullpen's most nightmarish meltdown of the season, a full-scale collapse that wasted 18 (!) Giant hits. In three games the A's scored 28 runs, knocked the Giants off their short-lived perch on baseball's top-dog pedestal, and gave doubters and worriers everywhere plenty to chew on. With ten days remaining until the All-Star break, it's gonna take more than baseball's best hitting pitcher thumbing his nose at the game's most controversial rule to keep Our Boys six or more games ahead of LA and in shape for a postseason bid. After taking the last two of three against their hated rivals three weeks ago, the Giants had fattened themselves with a 11-2 run against three certifiably weak teams and one struggling team. The A's, fighting to stay out of last place in the AL West, were supposed to be another pushover. They weren't. The next nine, up to the break, are against the Diamondbacks and Rockies, two division opponents going in opposite directions. Matt Cain may return from the DL during this stretch, and both Samardzija and the bullpen-- especially Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez-- will bear careful watching.

While Bumgarner's success is unlikely to motivate the MLBPA to abandon its tenacious support for the career-extending and gainful-employment-providing DH, we do hope it will slow down the rumor mill that earlier in the season all but conceded the National League was also about to adopt the rule. "Bum's" batting prowess is neither a revolutionary trend nor a one-time aberration-- it's a simple reminder that the game can be, and in this league ought to be, played the way it's been played since time immemorial. Vive le difference, and all that.

The Loneliest Number
Bumgarner's opponent, rookie Dillon Overton, put up a Game Score of 1 in yesterday's slugfest. The tale of the tape: eight runs, all earned, on eight hits plus three walks over three innings. This earned the young lefty a free one-way ticket back to Nashville, and is the worst start by any pitcher in any Giants game this season. The previous nadir, 8, was posted by Samardzija a little over a week ago during the Pittsburgh series. The Giants eased "Shark's" pain considerably that night by coming back to win.

Swooner or Later
You all can't wait for this to end, can you? The Giants went 17-10 in June, following a 20-8 May. That they did this despite Hunter Pence, Matt Duffy, Kelby Tomlinson, and, lately, Joe Panik on the DL, and Angel Pagan just returning from it, and with unfamiliar names such as Ruben Tejada, Ramiro Pena, Grant Green, and Conor (OK, we know him) Gillaspie playing major roles, testifies to this Giants team's continuing resilience, and to continuing good management. But Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti are facing a series of issues within the bullpen that they haven't had to deal with for years, and we expect that will be the focus of any personnel moves the club might make in the weeks ahead.  

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