What an end to the road trip! It took me an extra day just to watch the last game of this series and yet another day to get this written up — I think no one (by which I mean everyone) remembered to warn me that having to take up to three hours out of the day to watch and score a baseball game kind of eats up what little free time is left in your day. But watch I did, and I was rewarded with more than a few interesting things – let’s dig into a few!
- Go For The Throat: Starting with a painful one, in Sunday’s contest the Dodgers left only one man on base the entire game, and that was Zack Greinke, stranded by a Carl Crawford groundout after a booming ground rule double. Now, if they had barely hit, that would be one concern; however, they scored six on seven hits, and left only one man on base. All game.
- Late Night Web Gems: Does anybody get to watch these? Is there any way that Angel Pagan isn’t on there regularly? When he’s healthy — and hopefully, staying that way — he is the combination of spark plug and leather-flasher that we desperately need at the top of the lineup and the center of the outfield. Other than Shulman and Kruk — more on that later — saying it was good to have a ‘real center fielder’ again (I’m sorry, have you not SEEN Gregor Blanco play? Oh, right, you haven’t!) it’s easy to see that Pagan not only upholds stringent standards of center field defense for the Giants, but has been incredibly valuable in that leadoff spot as well, going 5-for-12 this series with two walks. Besides that, Pence is no slouch, showing off a massive outfield assist on Saturday, and Pablo Sandoval has reminded a few people why we don’t usually worry too much about him out there at third base with some diving stops and leaps to knock down grounders.
- In The Air Like You Just Don’t Care: Three games at Dodger Stadium. Of seventeen runs scored by the Giants, seven came on home runs. Of twelve runs scored by the Bums, seven came on home runs. Was the ball jumping? A bit — it has been this whole trip — but this is a kind of Giants baseball we’ve only just started to get familiar with after years of low-power baseball and elite pitching, we find ourselves with inconsistently brilliant pitching but power developing to complement it.
- Nattering Nabobs: I’ll say this about John Kruk: He’s honest. I don’t think he tells it like it is; I think he tells it like he sees it from the mysterious Kruk-land that his brain lives in. He has some solid stories, as any good national-level color analyst should, but he is not a good national-level color analyst. When the best methods of dialogue you have are to shut down your partner (“Nope, I don’t think so”) and to provide commentary that just feels completely out of sync with what you see on the broadcast…but, hey, when you’ve got a color analyst like Mike Krukow around, I guess you get a little spoiled.
- Gold Glove Offense: We frequently talk about the joke that you have to “hit well enough for a Gold Glove”, a joking reference to the idea that without offense, the coaches and others that vote on the Gold Glove awards won’t notice you for your defense. Things like Web Gems, the Top 10, and increased access and attention to clips online have increased teams’ ability to be aware of these things, and some change is happening — but it doesn’t change the fact that this year, Crawford and Belt are starting to do it. Crawford, especially, is a wizard at shortstop and will likely be trading with Andrelton Simmons for the Gold Glove at the position, but in this series Crawford posted an 0-for-6 with two walks, all four outs on Sunday being strikeouts. Belt, on the other hand, went 4-for-13 with three singles and a home run. If the defense is there, and Belt is at least an above-average defender, some strong play, athletic ability, and difficult picks at first could well put Belt into the discussion.
- The Only Good Bum is a Mad Bum: Madison Bumgarner cemented his role as the team’s ace with a sterling performance on Saturday against a strong, if inconsistent, Dodgers lineup. In 6.1 innings, Bumgarner put together ten strikeouts, five of them coming against the heart of the order (Ramirez, Gonzalez, and Kemp) and only allowed two earned runs. It seems like a safe bet that we still haven’t quite seen everything Madison Bumgarner has in the tank, and that he’s still getting warmed up; other than a clean fifth inning, Bumgarner allowed at least one hit every other inning. He only issued one walk, and the limited number of runners and nature of spreading out the hits helped keep Bumgarner in control of the game — but the pitch count ran up, and once again, Bumgarner was gone by the middle of the 7th inning. I’d like to see that dominant attitude translate into a complete game sometime soon, but you know what? It’s damned fun to watch in the meantime.
- Close to the Chest: Matt Kemp got in on a pitch on Sunday (one of many, it seemed like) that was in on his hands, and watching the slow-mo replay really can teach you a lot about how his swing can tighten in and shorten up without losing any momentum or power. Hitters have wheelhouses, sure, but the kind of inside coverage that swing will get you is what keeps the “strictly a power hitter” label away for a long time. Kemp’s a Dodger, but I respect what he can do (and, let’s face it, I like him better than Puig.)
Plenty of fantastic baseball this weekend, and if you’re going to end a road trip with a pretty crushing loss to your most bitter rivals…it doesn’t hurt to do it with a 5-2 record, plenty of home runs, and your first baseman right in the middle of a hot streak, does it?