By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–Right now, the NL West has some serious, what comes around, goes around, going down.
The Diamondbacks started it all by winning their first nine series, and lapping the field with their 19-8 start. All four of Arizona divisional opponents got a taste of the D’Backs’ heat, and the Giants and Dodgers dropped three-games sets at home and away to Arizona in April.
But the D’Backs went from hot to cold seemingly overnight, losing 13 of 14. Colorado jumped up first, and briefly assumed first place. The Rockies made their run on the outside, sweeping the Mets and Cubs on the road to start May. Then the Dodgers got hot, winning a pair of series against the Rockies in their surge.
Now Giants have returned home, winning the first four of a six-game home stand, and their 10-3 series-opening win seemingly indicates that it’s the D’Backs’ time to pay.
Zach Godley allowed back-to-back home runs to Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Crawford, the opening blows in the Giants’ seven-run fourth that turned a 2-0 deficit into a laugher in one, swift act. In all, the Giants hit four solo shots with Pablo Sandoval and Nick Hundley putting the finishing touches on the important win.
“We took advantage in that inning. McCutchen hit that home run and after that Crawford, and then we’re working and working every pitch to score more,” Sandoval recounted.
Key in the rally was manager Bruce Bochy’s decision to lift starter Derek Holland with the bases loaded and one out in favor of pinch-hitter Alen Hanson. All Hanson did was foul off four of the five, normally confounding curveballs thrown by Godley, before sending his hardest offering down the left field line for a double, and a 4-2 Giants’ lead.
Godley lasted just four more pitches, leaving when replay revealed that Joe Panik was hit by his curveball that veered too far inside.
When the Giants last saw Godley in April, he was the pitcher of the moment, shutting down the Dodgers (in a matchup with Clayton Kershaw) and Giants in his first, two starts of the season. After striking out nine and beating the Giants 2-1, Godley confidently stated that he used the Giants’ aggressiveness against them with great success.
But opponents soon found out that Godley’s signature knuckle curve doesn’t always finish in the strike zone, and they began laying off it in droves.
In Godley’s third start, he walked six batters and was done after four innings, trailing 5-0 to the Dodgers. Then the grizzly-bear like hurler won his next two starts without wowing either opponent. In those appearances he beat the Padres and Nationals, but allowed a combined 16 hits in 10 innings of work.
And Godley after that? One win in seven starts with only one of those lasting into the seventh inning.
“I throw my curveball a lot,” he said. “If guys can see it, they’re going to lay off of it as much as they can until I can prove that I can throw for it strikes.”
After the win Monday–and the season-best, five-game win streak–the Giants are back at .500 for the 12th time this season, and the first time since May 20 (24-24). So what’s different this time?
Two things: the Giants are just 1 1/2 games out of first place, as close as they’ve been to the top of the NL West since they were 4-3 on April 7. And Madison Bumgarner is scheduled to pitch Tuesday, the World Series MVP’s season debut after the Giants somehow survived 60 games without him.
Patrick Corbin, who was roughed up in his previous start at home against the lowly Reds, opposes Bum in the 7:15pm start.
FIRST-YEAR PLAYER DRAFT: The Giants selected catcher Joey Bart with the second overall pick in the 2018 draft on Monday. The 6’3″, 225 lbs. prospect is considered to be a plus defender and a skilled pitch caller, possessing a power bat. A skill set that not surprisingly mirrors that of 31-year old Buster Posey.
Could change be in the wind?
“When you have what I believe is the best catcher in the game with us, he’s our guy. So I don’t even think about that until it’s time to think about it,” Bochy said of any changing of the guard within the next two seasons.