Spander: Giants off to hot start, but true test comes in LA 

And now the Dodgers, the hailed Dodgers, the despised Dodgers, the “Beat L.A.” Dodgers. And now we find out if these 2010 Giants, who have started so well, who have begun so encouragingly, are able to do what Giants teams of late have been unable to do, beat the Dodgers.

The Colorado Rockies are supposed to be the best in the National League West, followed by the Dodgers. But the Giants have been in first place since Opening Day, and who knows what is possible — if they can beat the Dodgers?

“We got a tough road trip coming up,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, like any good baseball man always wary. And also confident.

Bochy was sitting in his interview room at AT&T on Wednesday afternoon, getaway day, after his team had played its tidiest, most efficient game of the year, defeating Pittsburgh 6-0.

“It’s hard to put together a better game than this one,” Bochy said.

An inside-the-park homer off one of the right field arcades by Aubrey Huff, (who also had a double, and doesn’t that pickup suddenly look good?). A three-run homer by Eli Whiteside. A two-run homer by Aaron Rowand. An 11-strikeout, three-hitter by Jonathan Sanchez. All in 2 hours, 8 minutes before a crowd of 29,028.

That’s as good as it gets. And the Giants are as good as they’ve been in seven years, at least in numbers. They’re playing .778 baseball, seven wins out of nine games. In 2003, San Francisco started 8-1, and won 100 games and the division.

Sanchez was hammered his first start, giving up three runs in four innings to Atlanta. “But he was on today,” said Bochy emphasizing the obvious. “He kept the ball down so much better. He had them chasing.”

Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Sanchez. The Big Four. That’s what they called the starters on the Cleveland Indians nearly 60 years ago, Bob Feller, Mike Garcia, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn. If the Giants’ four doesn’t quite match those guys, it will suffice in the 2000s.

The team ERA is 2.75, and that’s with Cain’s 4.26. Lincecum is 1.29, Sanchez 2.19, Zito 2.25.

“I felt if we threw the way we did in spring training,” Bochy said, commenting on the Giants winning the Cactus League, “and the pitchers threw the way they did, we could get out of the gate fast.”

They’re out, of the gate that is.

“We’re throwing strikes, getting 0-1 counts on hitters. That is so important, especially in this ballpark,” Bochy added.

The question about the Giants was hitting, or lack of it. Yet Rowand, moved to leadoff, and Huff, signed as a free agent, batting fourth, around a healthy Edgar Renteria, have some punch. Then the day Bengie Molina sits, Whiteside takes over as catcher and powers one into the left-field seats.

“It’s great to get off to a good start like this,” said Bochy. “The pitching was good, and we got clutch hitting.”

In nine games, Sanchez was the first starter to complete eight innings, which doesn’t mean much one way or the other. What means a great deal is how the Giants do against the Dodgers, a team which has been nothing but trouble.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and E-mail him at

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Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at
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