By Morris Phillips
Trying to form the best characterization of the San Francisco Giants mid-July 2019, and can’t seem to quite get it right using terms like buyers, sellers, winners or losers?
You’re not alone.
But try this phrase: movers, as in the Giants are riding a historic, offensive awakening and moving up in a crowded, but opportunity-filled National League Wild Card chase. On Monday, the Giants snatched a pair from the Rockies, winning 19-2 and 2-1 in a day/night doubleheader at Coors Field.
The formerly, offensively-challenged Giants have averaged better than seven runs per game in road contests since June 1, that after they piled up 24 hits and 21 runs on the Rockies, then cruised, going scoreless over the final five innings of the night cap, in which they pitched and defended in a 2-1 victory.
At 45-49 they’re not exactly winners, but they’re not losers either. The Giants are red hot, having won 10 of 12. As for moving up, the Giants are now just three games behind the Cardinals, who currently own the second wild card spot by percentage points over the Phillies.
With such a dramatic turnaround for a club that remains in last place in the NL West, and still has five clubs between themselves and the Cardinals, the occasion of the sweep is no time to tackle the Herculean effort needed to continue the ascent to a playoff berth. But it is an opportunity to celebrate Brandon Crawford, who smacked three homers in the twin bill. In the first game, Crawford became the first ever big league shortstop to compile five hits and eight RBI in a single game.
“I’m seeing the ball well,” Crawford said. “You expect to get hits when that happens.”
Crawford didn’t stop there. He and Stephen Vogt homered consecutively in the fourth inning of the second game, all the offense the Giants needed in a 2-1 win. Dereck Rodriguez was gifted the spot start and shined, going five inning while allowing four hits and a run.
Jeff Samardzija pitched into the seventh inning in the opener, picking up the win while allowing four hits (two home runs allowed) and striking out nine. Samardzija was awful in three, previous starts at Denver, but not this time. The veteran hurler evened his record at 7-7, and navigated his way through a 13-0 lead after four innings, and 16-1 through six.
Rockies manager Bud Black removed his starter German Marquez in the third inning after he allowed 11 hits and 11 runs. With four games between the clubs in a tight, three-day window, Black was in no mood to burn his bullpen. That’s when he turned to first baseman Mark Reynolds to pitch the ninth inning, and the slugger made it through in 21 pitches, but allowed the final two runs of the game. Afterwards, Black couldn’t recall ever in his career as manager and as a pitching coach resorting to using a position player to pitch.
“I really don’t like to do it, but I felt in this game I needed to because of saving arms in the pen and knowing where we are in the season, and what we have in front of us,” Black said.
After the first game of the doubleheader, the Giants had compiled 90 runs in their previous 11 games, the most runs the team has scored in an 11-game span since they moved to San Francisco in 1958. They had never scored as many as 19 runs in a game at Coors Field until Monday.
NOTES: Evan Longoria was placed on the 10-day injured list due to a plantar fasciitis issue in his left foot. For Longoria, the timing of the injury couldn’t be worse; the slugger just came off a stretch where he homered six times in 11 games, his hottest stretch in a year-plus as a Giant.
The trade front continues to heat up, especially in regards to Will Smith. The Brewers are rumored to be the Giants’ most likely trade partner for the closer, and the Giants’ win streak probably will not keep Smith from being moved, but with the Giants playing well, the team will likely listen to other suitors, and may only move Smith to an AL club that they don’t have to compete with in the wild card race.
As for Madison Bumgarner, the trade market continues to revolve around prospects at the lower levels of the minor leagues. With the market so tepid for the iconic San Francisco pitcher, would the Giants consider keeping him for the stretch run, and then resigning him in the off-season? The Giants’ hot streak definitely creates the possibility of some other options for the 2014 World Series hero.