Here is a link to my Thursday Giants column. The full text runs below:
SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants need another bat. As in a hitter.
They got shut out in their Wednesday matinee, lost 2-0, went quietly, passively. Five hits. Asleep at the switch. Astros starter Scott Feldman did the deed. Good pitcher. Not exactly Nolan Ryan.
For heaven’s sake, the Giants need a bat.
They recently lost these players – count them – Joe Panik, Nori Aoki and Angel Pagan. Aoki, poor guy, had to leave Wednesday’s game with lightheadedness. Almost surely a recurrence of concussion symptoms from getting beaned a few days ago. Bruce Bochy said it’s a “definite possibility” Aoki will go on the disabled list.
That’s three starters out of action. That’s a big deficit. That’s a big-time hitting gap, although let’s face it, Pagan gets hurt every season, misses games. And he has no home runs in 102 games. Ouch. The Giants will go on without him. Have to. Is Pagan nearing the end of his effective baseball life? Probably.
The unofficial Giants buzz is all about Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley. Why? Because the Giants need a second baseman. Because no one knows when Panik returns. And Ehire Adrianza is batting .216. Ye gods. And Kelby Tomlinson, who may be able to hit – small sample size — may not be a big-league fielder.
Utley would be nice. Here is Bochy on the likelihood of the Giants making a move. Imagine Bochy sitting on that little stage in the small cramped muggy postgame interview room, Bochy yanking his cap off his red forehead, Bochy’s hair sweaty, Bochy speaking slowly, trying to sound positive, knowing his team just lost seven of 10 games. Double ouch.
Bochy: “I know they’re looking.” He meant Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and their entourage. “It’s that time of year. They’re busy to see if there’s something that can help us out. Sure, I think everybody would say they’d like another bat. It’s not that easy. Guys have to go through waivers. They get claimed and blocked and all those things. Meanwhile, there’s our 25 guys. I’ll go with them any day. Somebody’s going to have to pick it up, give us a shot in the arm.”
The Giants sure need a shot in the arm. I hope they keep the shot kosher. Like a hypodermic with a new bat. Which brings us to today’s essential question, the question that hovers over every Giants discussion as we veer into mid-August, and the season’s end comes hoves into view:
Do giants have what it takes?
It seems we always ask this question this time of year. And usually the Giants do have what it takes, or find a way to get what it takes. But let’s be coldly analytical. No emotion. No special pleading for the local guys.
They play the field like champs. They are the world champs. Their relief pitching is excellent, although they have closer confusion. Can Santiago Casilla do it? And if he can’t, is Sergio Romo, whom the Giants doubt from time to time, good enough? But, OK, let’s just say the Giants are set in the bullpen.
We already know they need a bat. So, what about their starting pitching? Let’s phrase it in a more creative way. How is their un-Bumgarner rotation?
Madison Bumgarner is tough, cagey, fast, slow, can pitch to every part of the plate, never feels a particle of nerves. Could be the best pitcher in the big leagues. He is The Bumgarner. But what about the other guys? The un-Bumgarners.
The Giants currently have a two-man un-Bumgarner rotation. Rookie Chris Heston took the loss Wednesday but, come on, he allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings and was dominating and sharp and a pleasure to watch. Bochy said Heston has “really good poise.” Heston invented poise.
The other dependable un-Bumgarner is Jake Peavy, although “dependable” may be an exaggeration. Peavy is the greatest competitor in the Western World. He is a quality starter with a repertoire of hard-as-hell-to-hit pitches. But he may be merely a five-inning starter. He throws lots of pitches because hitters foul off his stuff. Because he doesn’t actually put them away. He creates a burden for the bullpen despite his feistiness. But, sure, he qualifies for the un-Bumgarner staff.
I mean, a team needs more than three starters, two of them un-Bumgarners.
Mike Leake may be a fine un-Bumgarner starter. Almost surely is. The Giants brought him in to be the No. 2 man. He throws a ton of innings, preserves the pen. And he should be good when he soon rejoins the rotation. But he got hurt almost immediately and it wasn’t even in a game. He has to prove his un-Bumgarner quality.
Matt Cain is a complete unknown. Or he may be a known and what is known is not so good. Batters crush his pitches.
Tim Hudson is coming off the disabled list soon, I guess. But the Giants don’t seem enthusiastic about him. It’s about Hudson getting old and losing whatever it is pitchers lose.
And Tim Lincecum has been exiled to Siberia. Or someplace like that.
The Giants have several lacks.
“It’s that time of year,” Bochy said after the game. “Where we’re at, we’ve got to win ballgames. It’s pretty simple. I guess it’s part of being in the hunt like we are.”
The Giants are most definitely in the hunt. You never dismiss them. They are the eternal predator. The great white shark you spot far out in the ocean, the dorsal fin coming ominously closer. Always coming.
They still need a bat.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.