It’s been a funny week for the Giants, with really good news on the field but really bad news off it. Let’s start with the good.
As underwhelming as the Dodgers have been this season, it is always impressive to beat them, and the Padres had already taken three of four games against them this year so it was important to take that series. It keeps the Giants above .500 and gathering momentum nicely. They had not won four series in a row since June 2016, when they dispatched the Dodgers, Brewers, Rays and Pirates for 11-2 over a thirteen game stretch. Things have been much tighter for the Giants this time round, and it has been impressive to see them digging in and fighting for wins.
Key performances continue to come from unexpected quarters, with Nick Hundley stepping up this week to help carry the team through some tough games. Hundley went 7 for 11 over the Dodgers and Padres series, including two home runs and two doubles, for a 2.000 OPS! Ultra-small sample size for sure, but it underlines what an impressive week he had, even if four of those hits came in one game.
Austin Jackson stepped up finally and contribute some important plate appearances, most notably his bases-clearing double against the Dodgers in game two of Saturday night’s double header. He looked much more comfortable at the plate afterwards, and really seems to be settling in. There have been a lot of calls for youth to be given opportunities at centre field but he is showing some fight in keeping his job, and appeared in six of seven games last week.
Andrew McCutchen has his best week as a Giant so far, at least in term, along with Evan Longoria. Few pitchers will relish facing a four of Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria if they can continue to show this level of consistent threat. You can see from the graph below how McCutchen is steadily improving as a Giant, and making himself more and more important to the team.
In terms of pitching highlights, if we can look beyond Pablo Sandoval’s perfect (and perfectly unexpected!) outing in the blowout defeat to the Dodgers in the first game of the Saturday double header, it was great to see Will Smith welcomed back into the fold after an age on the sidelines. The Giants will need him to quickly re-establish himself as a key piece of the relief jigsaw as they seek to limit the damage of Cueto’s extended absence.
Which brings us on to the bad news! Injuries continue to ravage the squad, with the news that Panik will miss 6-8 weeks and Cueto could be heading to Tommy Johnsville. I was surprised to learn that Cueto had been dealing with elbow pain because he has looked excellent so far this year. It goes without saying that losing him for an extended period will be a big blow, and we await news of the situation there.
The Panik news is another blow, but I’m more confident he can be covered ably until he returns. Slightly more concerning, however, is the fact that this is another year in which Panik will have a lengthy stay on the sidelines through injury. It affects his value considerably when one factors in the amount of time each year he misses. Another issue is that he has not traditionally been hot quickly after returning from injury, but we will wait and see how he recovers this time.
The injuries come at a really bad time given that the Giants now face a month in which they play 18 of the their next 25 games on the road, and all against teams currently over .500, not to mention teams, in the Cubs and Astros, with serious postseason prospects. After passing their first test in getting through April with a winning record, we will learn a lot about this Giants team by how they fare in May. It will take a stellar effort to have a second consecutive winning month, but I am beginning to grow quietly confident in the team’s ability to throw up game winners when most needed.
First up are two tricky road trips to Atlanta and Philadelphia, to face a Acuna-enlivened Braves outfit and a solid Phillies team. Going 3 for 3 over the week would be perfectly respectable, but it is too much to ask for another couple of series wins?