By Morris Phillips
No World Series champion has finished last in its division the following season since the 1998 Marlins were stuck with the dubious distinction winning just 54 games and finishing last in the NL East.
The 2013 Giants don’t want that jacket—especially since they originally had designs on defending their title unlike those Marlins who sold off all their high-priced pieces after winning it all in 1997.
On Monday, the Giants were officially eliminated from winning the NL West but that didn’t prevent them from earning a hard fought victory over the Rockies when Brandon Belt knocked in the game-winning run in the 10th inning.
Belt knocked in the game-tying run in the eighth prior to winning it in the 10th. Since August 1, Belt’s done the opposite of dialing it in, hitting .354 with 16 runs batted in, while adhering to the hitting adjustments suggested by hitting coach Hensley Muelens.
“I don’t think I’ve looked at the standings in a while. But we still care about ourselves,” Belt said. “We have some goals in mind and want to finish the season strong.”
“That’s what you want to see from your young players: improvement and adjustments,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Belt. “And he’s done that, he’s a different hitter now than he was earlier in the season.”
The Giants evened their season record at home at 37-37 with eight games remaining. The win also gave the team consecutive one-run victories for the first time since May 5, when they completed a three-game run of one-run wins. Overall, the team has captured nine of their last 16 contests.
Tim Lincecum pitched into the eighth inning, but that was only good enough and long enough to get him off the hook for the loss. Still, the Freak pitched well, after allowing six hits and two runs in the first three innings. As the game went along, Lincecum began locating pitches and relying heavily on his changeup which was effective in retiring Rockies’ batters.
“We got a couple runs early, but he shut us down after that,” Colorado manager Walt Weiss said of Lincecum.
Lincecum win-loss record remains an unsightly 9-13 but he won three consecutive starts prior to Monday’s no-decision, his best run of success since April 2010. Is Timmy in the Giants’ plans for 2014 even with his declining velocity and spotty results? It remains to be seen, but it appears Lincecum is still stating his case, which in itself is a good sign.
In terms of statistics, Timmy’s done some good: 178 innings pitched with 175 strikeouts, which ranks him in the top 15 in the National League. But he’s also done some bad: his 70 walks are among the highest totals in the National League and he’s surrendered 19 home runs in 29 starts.
And what of the Giants trying to stay out of the cellar? Monday’s win brought the team within a ½ game of the Rockies and one game of the Padres, who are in third place in the division. Ironically, the Giants’ 36-28 record within the NL West is the best of the bunch, but the team has had 15 other opponents (excluding the Yankees, who they will see for the first time on September 20) whom they haven’t done well against (28-51).
Overall, a mixed bag for the Champs, but a bag they still seem interested in trying to organize, which is admirable.
On Tuesday, the Giants turn to Ryan Vogelsong who will be opposed by Colorado’s Jorge De La Rosa.