Destination October

Posted: July 24, 2016 by Sports Time Radio in baseball, post season, sports, Sports Time Radio
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The San Francisco Giants won for the first time in seven games, Saturday against the New York Yankees, taking the second game of the three-game series, 2-1, in twelve innings. Johnny Cueto hurled six innings of one-run ball (the run was unearned) and the bullpen matched him, while rookie Mac Williamson drove in both San Francisco runs.
After dropping the opener Friday night, when Williamson committed an eighth-inning error, leading to the Yankees’ third run, the Giants managed to regroup and finally snap out of their post-All-Star funk. Their six-game losing streak is the longest of the season, and if it weren’t for the Los Angeles Dodgers also encountering some technical difficulties, it could be worse. 
The Giants maintain their four-game lead as the Dodgers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-2, Saturday.
The Giants (58-39) and Chicago Cubs (58-38) remain on a collision-course for a confrontation in October. Though they have almost identical records, the journey to get to this point in the season, has been quite different for these two competitive clubs.
The Cubs blasted off to an incredible 25-6 record during the first six weeks of the season, while the Giants were merely mortal at 16-15. However, as the hare was to discover, speed is not necessarily the optimum approach. Best keep in mind that the race will be won not so much by the swift as by the durable.

Whereas the Giants have proven less than durable with a multitude of injuries, their relief corps has been stellar. Now with Hunter Pence, Ehire Adrianza and Joe Panik rehabbing and Matt Duffy only one or two more days away from beginning his own rehab stint, the team is gearing up for a second-half crusade.

The Cubs saw Dexter Fowler return to the lineup in style, hammering a home run in his first at-bat, and he has helped balance some of the low spots created by extended slumps from a couple of key players, Ben Zobrist and Justin Heyward.
The team is also activating Joe Nathan, 41, returning from Tommy John surgery, and this can’t help but strengthen the club. 

If we go back thirty games, we find the Cubs at 46-20 and the Giants at 40-26. Since then Chicago is 14-18 (43.75%) while San Francisco is 18-13 (56.25%). A big reason for that difference has to do with Chicago’s starting pitching during this period.

Over the last thirty games, Jake Arrieta is 1-2 with a 6.17 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP; Jason Hammel is 2-2 with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP; John Lackey is 0-4 with a 6.38 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP; and Jon Lester is 1-1 with a 6.86 ERA and a WHIP of 1.42. 

Of course, there is Kyle Hendricks and his 4-0 record with a minuscule ERA of 0.57 and 1.09 WHIP.

San Francisco’s pitching stats are not stellar over the same period but they reflect a consistency that has not varied dramatically, as is the case with the Cubs’ rotation. Of course it goes without saying that all players are going to have ups and downs over a full season, but the simultaneous struggles of four-fifths of the Chicago rotation, bears mentioning.

Most likely we are looking at a blip on the radar of a long, grueling season. With a six-and-one-half game lead over the Cards, the Cubs do have a small cushion upon which to rest, before they have to start getting nervous. 

The Giants have a four-game lead over the Dodgers, who just learned that their ace pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, has suffered a set-back in his bid to rehab from lower back issues.

The bottom line is that injuries and slumps are all a part of the game, and a team’s ability to handle this type of adversity will often determine its degree of success. 

Both of these clubs have experienced giddying heights to their respective seasons, to accompany the low points. Both teams are looking at the approaching trade deadline with great interest.

Chicago is said to be looking at Josh Reddick of the Oakland A’s, while also contemplating a Kyle Schwarber-for-Andrew Miller trade. The Giants are rumored to be interested in Boone Logan and even Carlos Beltran, while also checking out the aforementioned Andrew Miller, along with his teammate, Aroldis Chapman.

History has proven how impactful a key acquisition can be, and you should expect that this year will be no different. With almost identical records, both the Cubs and Giants have a little over a third of the season to refine their lineups and prepare for postseason-play.

See you in the NLCS.

Mark ONeill


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