San Francisco sees this series as a great opportunity, though really it is their last legitimate opportunity to pull back into the race. They will need to replicate the sweep they pulled off to close August to even pull within 1.5 games, and that won't be so easy. They are just 5-7 since that sweep, 2-7 in games not started by Brad Penny, whose rotation slot does not come up for the series.
Here's the scenario. After this series is over, the Giants will have 16 games left. If the Rockies sweep, the ensuing 7.5 game deficit effectively eliminates the Giants, but you probably already thought that. If the Rockies win the series, a 5.5 game deficit would be practically insurmountable. For reference, the Rockies surreal once-in-a-lifetime Rocktober run had them 4.5 games out with 16 back.
So if the Giants don't win this series, the Rockies are in the playoffs. Even if the Giants win the series though, they won't sweep again, though they need to. Given the Rockies have 9 of 15 games remaining at home after the series, catching the Rockies from a 3.5 game deficit would be extremely difficult as is. I would go as far as guaranteeing the playoffs at that point barring injuries. I just can't see lightning (a sweep) striking twice, even though they are tossing out the same Lincecum/Zito/Cain trio that debuted as a series triumverate with that sweep against the Rockies at the end of August.
The Giants see this as an opportunity, but really, the opportunity belongs to Colorado. If the Giants can't capilatize on their head-to-head battles with a sweep, the Rockies will have buried the Giants to the point of non-Rocktober-caliber elimination. Sweep or die.
(77-66, W1, 3rd, 4.5 GB WC, 7.5 GB Div)
Monday-Wednesday: 3-game series at AT&T Park
The Bats: F
Bruce Bochy has atrociously constructed his lineup all season, and he hasn't learned. Sure, he has practically nothing to work with, but that's not enough of an excuse. I suppose perfect lineup construction wouldn't help them with how poor their bats are though. If you need a refresher course, check here or here or here. Sure adding Freddy Sanchez will help some, but he's not really a significant threat (his wOBA this year is worse than what Eric Young Jr has done so far, but with the Giants, it has been worse than Garrett Atkins' level). Here's the grossness:
|Eugenio Velez - LF||.270||4||20||.319||.417||.321|
|Freddy Sanchez - 2B||.293||7||39||.328||.425||.326|
|Pablo Sandoval - 3B||.322||21||77||.377||.541||.384|
|Ryan Garko - 1B||.270||13||51||.343||.432||.340|
|Nate Schierholtz - RF||.275||5||29||.308||.415||.307|
|Aaron Rowand - CF||.269||14||57||.326||.438||.333|
|Edgar Renteria - SS||.252||5||48||.309||.331||.284|
By wOBA metrics, the lineup features one All-Star caliber players (Sandoval), one above average hitter (Garko), two about average hitters (Rowand and Sanchez), two below average hitters (Schierholtz and Velez), one on the cusp of terrible (Molina) and one that is just flat out bad (Renteria).
Hop after the jump for the scouting report on the arms, the D, the pitching matchups, injuries and the hot/cold players.
The Arms: A
The first time Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain pitched in the same series, they swept the Rockies at AT&T Park. Now they will try to do it again. Lincecum and Cain were no-brainer All-Stars and Barry Zito is having a strong season, helped mostly by the Rockies. The Giants rank in the top three in just about every pitching category there is - impressive given they don't get a benefit from the home park, and their bullpen is very solid at the back end. As we have seen though, should a starter get chased early, or if a game goes extra innings, that bullpen is vulnerable.
|2009 - Brian Wilson||5-5||62||0||0||0||34||6||67.0||57||25||20||2||25||72||2.69||1.22|
Brian Wilson, who I hear is dumb, has seven straight scoreless appearances (hey! - that's how many Heath Bell had coming into the weekend!). After Wilson, there's lefties Jeremy Affeldt, Dan Runzler and Madison Bumgarner to go with righties Sergio Romo, Bob Howry, Merkin Valdez, Justin Miller, Waldis Joaquin, Joe Martinez and Brandon Medders.
The D: B+
The Giants' UZR/150 has dropped three entire spots in the last two weeks, yet they still come in at MLB's 5th best, which slots them 3rd most valuable according to Fangraphs. Playing Velez at second is partly to blame for the fall, though Sanchez should be starting at least two of the games in the series there.
The Ballpark: Hitter's Park
AT&T squelches home runs, given there really is no "power alley." However, the spacious outfield has plenty of room for hits, and the park factor reflects it, coming in solidly on the offensive side at 103/104.
Tonight, 8:15 pm MDT
|2009 - Jason Hammel||8-7||29||26||1||0||0||0||150.1||177||81||72||12||38||107||4.31||1.43|
|2009 - Tim Lincecum||13-5||29||28||4||2||0||0||200.1||150||59||52||9||55||233||2.34||1.02|
Hammel has been the ultimate secret weapon for the Rockies at the back end of the rotation. Despite his opponents reading like an All-Star team (Cain x 2, Santana, Moyer, Randy Wells, Josh Johnson, Kershaw, Haren, Arroyo) in his last ten starts, the Rockies have won six of them. That's incredible for a fifth starter. We have a new dragon slayer, and he has the 11th best WAR in the NL, no kidding. He has strung together 8 straight starts of 3 ER or less. Dan O'Dowd earned his Christmas bonus. Tim Lincecum is the best pitcher in the National League, but he is coming off of back spasms. On top of that, he only has one win in his last six starts, though that's not obviously his fault. You can't bet against Lincecum at home (8-1, 1.83 ERA), though Hammel has the ability to keep things interesting. I find it fitting that to slay the Giants, the Rockies begin with a David vs. Goliath matchup. Favors: GIANTS moderately
|2009 - Ubaldo Jimenez||13-10||29||29||1||0||0||0||195.1||164||74||72||12||73||167||3.32||1.21|
|2009 - Barry Zito||9-12||30||29||1||0||0||0||171.1||159||78||76||18||70||132||3.99||1.34|
|2009 - Jorge De La Rosa||14-9||29||28||0||0||0||0||166.2||159||86||81||20||75||170||4.37||1.40|
|2009 - Matt Cain||13-5||29||29||4||0||0||0||196.1||162||60||57||20||68||151||2.61||1.17|
The Rockies will all but eliminate the Giants by winning at least one game. Winning the series is certainly possible though.
Brian Wilson has tossed seven straight scoreless outings, though only one featured no baserunners. Juan Uribe will start at least one game, maybe two, given his 5 September HR, hitting .349 for the month. Sergio Romo hasn't allowed even one hit his last five appearances.
Pablo Sandoval is hitting just .220 with zero dingers this month. Perhaps he returned from injury prematurely? Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria are both hitting under the Mendoza line this month. Merkin Valdez had that debacle against Ryan Spilborghs at Coors Field, but he was even worse Friday, allowing four runs without getting an out against Los Angeles.
Oddly, the Giants have no players on the 15-day DL. Noah Lowry (ribs) has been on the 60 day DL since at least Opening Week, and P Kelvin Pichardo (shoulder - 6/28), Emmanuel Burriss (foot- 9/1) and Henry Sosa (shoulder - 8/5) are now keeping him company. Tim Lincecum missed his last start with back spasms but is expected to take the mound tonight, though he is still listed as "probable." Randy Johnson has seen no setbacks of yet in his attempt to return to action with the Giants in their bullpen after a trapezius injury in early July.