San Francisco Giants Shuffle Cards-Deal Jokers

The San Francisco Giants defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday night, 2-1, for their fifth straight victory. Ty Blach notched his first win of the season, going seven innings while surrendering a solo shot from Chris Taylor. Brandon Belt stayed hot, clubbing his fourth home run in six games, while Derek Law picked up his fourth save.

Since sagging to a major-league worst 12-24 record, the Giants have caught fire. Besides Belt, Buster Posey has clobbered five big flies in his last eight games, while Christian Arroyo has also contributed. Besides his three round-trippers (second on the team), his defensive versatility has been noteworthy.

Starting at second base for the first time, the rookie nailed Justin Turner in the fourth at the plate. The heads-up play turned out to be the difference in the game. Later in the seventh, Arroyo made a diving stop of Joc Pederson’s hard grounder and threw him out.

Bruce Bochy has taken advantage, using Eduardo Nunez in the outfield where injuries have left him scrambling. When Hunter Pence joined Jarrett Parker on the DL, it left only Denard Span left of the original three. Span himself just rejoined the Giants after his own stint on the disabled list.

Denard Span of the San Francisco Giants

Denard Span is back in the lineup.

Hoping to reestablish his credentials, Mac Williamson has responded well to being called up to replace Pence. He singled twice in his first game, knocking in a run, and he had another hit in his second start. Williamson’s one home run this season belies his power potential, but he needs to show fans what he can do.

Mark Melancon is due back Friday but Law has done a creditable job in his absence. This is one of the silver linings of guys going down-the chance to see what remains, in action.

One week ago today, I wrote that the Giants could not reasonably expect to win the division without Madison Bumgarner. They have gone 6-1 since then. Call it the broadcaster’s jinx, in reverse.

What’s key is that plenty of teams start out hot, and then cool off. Plenty of teams also start off poorly, and things go downhill from there. What’s not as common is the team that starts off in the tank, and then gets it together.

When 2016’s version of the Giants had the best record in baseball at All-Star time, we got our hopes up. What followed was nightmarish: the Orange and Black plummeting to the worst record in the second half. Even though they sneaked into the playoffs, their Achilles heel tripped them up, and the bullpen failed us.

That was then-this is now.

Think about the fact the the Giants just notched their first win of the season from their number one slot in the rotation. Ponder early injuries to MadBum (left shoulder), Buster Posey (concussion precaution), Brandon Crawford (bereavement, groin), Hunter Pence (left hamstring), Mark Melancon (right pronator strain), Jarrett Parker (collarbone), Aaron Hill (right forearm), and Conor Gillaspie (bask spasms).

Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants

Brandon Crawford has returned to the lineup.

Injuries are a part of the game, of course, and no excuse, but they can serve as a reason. They can also serve as a motivator and an assessment tool. Good teams manage to get by in their star players’ absence; great teams capitalize.

Ty Blach’s continued emergence as a starter means that if another rotation pitcher has issues, we have a replacement, once MadBum is back.

Also consider that if Bumgarner’s injury had taken place after the All-Star Game, then he is probably finished for the season. You have to play the cards you are dealt, but sometimes the jokers come into play.

We had one in the form of a dirt bike, but maybe the other will take shape as an All-Star third baseman, one who can hit Clayton Kershaw. Christian Arroyo has three hits against the Dodger Ace, in six at-bats, compared to Brandon Belt’s three hits in fifty-something at-bats. Interesting. Kershaw is pitching Wednesday night. We shall see.

When I wrote last week that the Giants’ season was over, I was basing it partly on the fact that only one team has lost as many as 18 games in April and achieved the playoffs, since the wildcard format began. That team was the Oakland A’s.

Maybe what I should have said was, “If the A’s can do it, so can the Giants.”

Stay tuned.