We all knew that down the stretch the Giants had a much easier schedule than the Dodgers, but they had to take advantage of it. They've done that and more as their magic number in the West has shrunk to 5 heading into play Thursday.
A friendly schedule down the stretch doesn't always translate into easy victories, but Bruce Bochy has kept his team sharp. San Francisco's played magnificent baseball the last few weeks, as they've lost just one series in September, and really should have the division locked up by the end of the weekend if things keep going they way they have been. With a 9 game lead and just 13 games left on the schedule, it would take a historic meltdown for the Giants to lose this division, and that just isn't going to happen. They absolutely shut down the potent Colorado offense the last couple of nights at AT&T Park, and have the shot at a 4-game sweep Thursday afternoon. Just as I suspected, the starting pitching has again hit it's stride at the best possible time (still waiting on Vogelsong), and the bullpen by committee has worked better than I think anyone was anticipating. I would have never thought the Giants would have this much success mixing and matching the arms they use in the 9th inning, but Bochy has shown just how much of a bullpen genious he is. I was thinking they would eventually just name Sergio Romo the closer, with Santiago Casilla throwing so well in the set-up role, but as is the case with other areas on this team, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
A big part of their success the last couple of nights has been in large part because of two players who weren't getting it done in the middle of the season. Tim Lincecum didn't have his most dominant outing of the season Tuesday night, but I can't name a start in which he was actually better. He had complete command of every pitch in his arsenal, and his fastball was on point. He went 6 1/3 scoreless, and walked just two batters after the 7 walk outing last week in Arizona. Now Timmy, who was 2-11 at one point this season, has improved to 10-14 and dropped his ERA below 5 for the first time in months. He's gone 6-3 since July 31st, and just keeps getting more confidence with each outing. I knew at some point this year, we'd see the real Timmy return, and it really looks like the Giants have gotten their ace back in time for postseason play. You can add Pablo Sandoval into that camp as well. The big third baseman's bat had looked a bit slow and out of balance for weeks, but he set the tone for the Giants in Wednesday's game with his first home run since July, and Matt Cain threw 8 innings of 1-run ball for his 15th win (career high). If the Giants can keep getting this consistency from Timmy, and can get Pablo back up around .300, look out Reds and Nationals!
While one big game doesn't necessarily put Panda back on track, I do think the home run will take a bit of a monkey off his back. Pablo prides himself in being able to knock the ball out and hit with authority, and he did that Wednesday as good as I've seen him do at any point this season. I just hope he doesn't get back into that home run happy swing he gets sometimes. He's got to stay patient and let pitches come to him. With Buster behind him, he's going to get pitches to hit, and he's got to cash in. He hadn't really done much since Buster started his torrid streak after the break, so it was awesome to see him finally take advantage on Wednesday.
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