The Giants pulled off an amazing sweep of the Dodgers in Los Angeles this week, which was a compliment both to their resiliency and the ability of manager Bruce Bochy to make the right decisions.
The first decision came Tuesday night, when Tim Lincecum started struggling in the sixth inning. Bochy has always stayed with his top starters and let them work out of trouble, but Lincecum is not in that category this year.
Though he’s pitched better since the All-Star Game, he’s still showing a disturbing trend: When he gets into a hole, he just keeps digging and makes the hole bigger. In this case, Bochy didn’t give him the chance, and he turned to a deep bullpen to save the game.
Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have been solid this year and, in fact, Bumgarner has been the most consistent, though Cain has a perfect game on his resume. Bochy has stayed with both of them when they hit a rough spot, and he should. Ryan Vogelsong is more problematic. He had a very strong start this season, backing up his surprising 2011 season, but he’s struggled lately, so he has to be watched closely.
So does Barry Zito, of course. Zito’s had some strong outings this year, but he’s also had some disastrous ones. It’s not that difficult to tell with Zito. If he starts well, throwing strikes, he’ll probably be fine. But if he starts going ball one, ball two, ball three ... get the bullpen going.
Bochy has also been mixing and matching with position spots. He’s been solicitous of Buster Posey’s health, a wise move considering Posey’s horrendous season-ending injury last season, and even rested him in the third game of the Dodgers’ series because Posey had a twinge in his hamstring. Playing him might have meant more damage to the hamstring and a stretch on the DL, not a good thing for the best hitter in the lineup.
The Giants have gotten considerable help from infielders Joaquin Arias and Marco Scutaro, but Bochy also needs to use them judiciously.
Arias is a very good fielder at three infield spots. He did a great job of replacing Pablo Sandoval defensively at third, and he has some pop, as he showed in the last game of the Dodgers series. But he is also an example of the kind of player that’s often seen in the major leagues, a player who can look very good in relatively short stretches but fades as a regular, whether from fatigue or the fact that pitchers get a better book on him.
Scutaro has bounced around the majors and is 36 now, so he can’t play every day, either. But he’s capable of playing second or third and, as he showed when he was with the A’s earlier, he’s a great clutch hitter. The Colorado Rockies would never have let him go if they weren’t buried deep in the NL West cellar.
If the Giants are to make the postseason, it is imperative that they win the NL West, and I still think the Dodges are the best team in the division. But the Giants’ resilience shows that they’re not going away yet.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.