By Morris Phillips
The Cubs aren’t very good, rarely win on the road, and after three rough days facing Giants’ pitching, obviously don’t have much magic with the bats.
Given that, the Giants 5-0 Wednesday matinee win didn’t provide much drama. But it did provide some: Tim Lincecum and reliever George Kontos kept the Cubs hitless into the seventh inning. With all the story lines surrounding Chicago’s offensive futility—and ample down time– the game also inspired a poem only a clumsy sportswriter could pen:
After Petit and Huff had it rough
The rest of the Giants staff said “enough”
That turned AT&T into one of those uninviting places
Where no Cubs were allowed to round the bases
The Cubs went the final 20 innings of the three-game series without scoring a run, including eight plus consecutive innings spanning Tuesday and Wednesday without a hit. As a result, a bunch of Giants’ pitchers got to lower their ERAs by facing the lovable losers, all excepting Monday’s starter Yusmeiro Petit and David Huff, who were around when Chicago put up seven runs in just three frames.
First-year Cubs’ manager Rick Renteria who’s had the misfortune of directing an offense that has the second-worst batting average and has scored the sixth fewest runs in either league, attempted to put a good face on the afternoon, which among other things didn’t see no-hit Timmy have anything near his best stuff.
“We drove (Lincecum’s) pitch count to almost 100 in five innings, so we were having good at-bats. We actually hit a few balls hard, didn’t find any holes. And then the last four innings, we weren’t able to do anything but I thought we put together some pretty good at-bats, we just didn’t generate any runs,” Renteria said.
“That was weird,” John Baker said. The backup catcher got the Cubs’ first hit off of Jeremy Affeldt. “It was a weird game too in that we had guys on base in every inning and it didn’t feel like we were getting no-hit. You kind of knew it when you looked up and saw the zero on the scoreboard but I know when I got the hit, (Giants’ first baseman Buster) Posey had no idea that we were getting no-hit.”
For the Giants, the series played as validation of their outstanding month on the mound coinciding with their ascension in the NL West and current, best record in baseball at 34-19. With May almost concluded, the Giants’ starters have the National League’s lowest ERA this month at 3.08, and the bullpen leads the big leagues in saves (19) and is second in wins (14). Unlike 2013, this year’s team has shown the ability and desire to win the games they’re supposed to, like those against the lowly Cubs.
The 20-inning streak served as bit of an answer to the Dodgers’ 17 consecutive innings of no-hit ball that concluded on Monday, a feat that had only been accomplished once in MLB since 1974. The Dodgers remain five games back of the Giants, but their strengths often seem a lot more impressive than those of the current division leaders. But on Wednesday that wasn’t the case as the Giants put up one scoreless inning after another.
With two World titles in the bag, and the best record in baseball, the Giants don’t have to worry about whether other teams are taking them seriously. But they may be the least imposing “best team in baseball” you’ve seen in a while. Firstly, their .642 win percentage was surpassed by five of the last six teams with the best record after 53 games. They aren’t imposing offensively, although their home run total (60 in 53 games) is impressive. Pitching-wise, the Giants seem just fine, but no one knows for sure if this staff can sustain this level of performance for a full season.
Lincecum threw 30 pitches in the first inning, and got a huge assist from Pablo Sandoval on a diving stab of Starlin Castro’s shot down the third base line. Timmy walked four and saw his pitch count climb quickly, but a developing blister may have been a bigger factor in when he departed on Wednesday. The pitcher said he could have thrown at least one more inning had he not developed the issue, but for sure, he wasn’t keen on a repeat of his 148-pitch no-hitter in San Diego in July.
“Granted I only went five innings, but zero runs so I’m happy with it,” Lincecum said.
On Thursday, the Giants take the field in hot St. Louis where Ryan Vogelsong will face the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia.