Giants come up huge

Giants Pablo Sandoval celebrates his team winning their division. (REUTERS)

Giants Pablo Sandoval celebrates his team winning their division. (REUTERS)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:58 PM ET

Following a one-year absence, the San Francisco Giants are back at the big dance having locked up the National League West Division crown last weekend.

By doing so, the Giants, from the players to the front office, are patting themselves on the back over the fact that they did so having overcome two setbacks that could easily have derailed all their shrewd planning.

To start with, the Giants lost their most dominating performer back in April when closer Brian Wilson went under the knife to undergo Tommy John surgery. With him went the bearded one who led the major leagues in saves in 2010 with 48.

The Giants replaced Wilson by giving both Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo the ball in the ninth. Casilla responded by going 24-for-30 in save situations while Romo is 12-for-13. On the season, the bullpen is 50-for-64 in save situations and is eighth in ERA at 3.64.

“They did what they had to do. They had no choice,” manager Bruce Bochy said of his troops. “Put anything behind you that you can’t control, whether it’s an injury or a suspension. These guys didn’t dwell on it or talk about it or say ‘woe is me.’ They just came out here and were ready to play a ball game and try to win that ball game.”

The second body blow occurred in the middle of August when outfielder Melky Cabrera, the leading hitter in the league at the time, was given a 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test.

Teams that lose a dominant closer and a league-leading hitter don’t usually surge on to division crowns, but that’s what happened out on the west coast.

Instead of sinking their chances, the suspension of Cabrera acted as a springboard as the Giants have gone 25-11 in his absence.

“Some people in baseball were thinking we’re in trouble because we lost a guy who was leading the league in hitting and was doing so much for us,” Bochy said. “Yet this group never talked about it. They never even discussed it; they kept their focus forward and kept marching. If anything, I think it did bring guys together, saying, ‘You know what, we still have a lot of talent in this room and we can still get this done.’ And they showed it.”

One of the bats that surfaced to take over the loss of Cabrera came from an unlikely source as it was provided by Marco Scutaro, a sparkplug-type of player if there ever was one. Scutaro provided that quality of play to the Blue Jays and then the Boston Red Sox before landing with the Colorado Rockies.

Acquired in a late July trade, Scutaro has soared in his new surroundings and in 53 games with the Giants, the second baseman is hitting .361 (78-for-216) with 13 doubles, 34 runs scored and 38 RBIs.

Leading the offence is catcher Buster Posey, who is hitting at a .332 clip with 36 doubles, a team-high 23 home runs and 98 RBIs.

Power is not the Giants’ strong suit, as they trail all major league teams in home runs with just 95.

Good teams always soar higher due to quality pitching and the Giants have that in spades led by starters Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, who have contributed 15 and 16 wins, respectively. In fact, all five of the Giants starters — who have remained injury-free — have achieved double digits in wins with Tim Lincecum bringing up the rear with 10.

The Giants believe they have a quality mix and the right stuff to make a second World Series appearance in the past three seasons.

“That just says a lot about the character of this team,” Bumgarner said. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity and a lot of different guys have stepped up, day in and day out. That says a lot about the guys we have on this team.”

Lincecum, by the way, is having a ‘freakish’ year and not in a good way.

On the season, the right-hander is 10-14 with a 4.91 ERA after 31 starts.

Earlier in the season he went through a hellish stretch when from May 4 to June 22 he made 10 starts where he was 0-6 with a 6.23 ERA.

In September, though, Lincecum has rebounded back to his Cy Young form as in four starts he is 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA.

Bochy, meanwhile, has said that all five of his starters — including Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito — would be on the post-season roster, but how they will be rolled out depends on who they will face — either Washington or Cincinnati.

If Lincecum gets on one of his rolls, watch out.

THE FAB FIVE

The Giants starting pitching is the strength of the club and the five members of the rotation have combined to start 151 of the team’s 153 games this season. Following is a breakdown of one of the top rotations in baseball:

PITCHER STARTS W L ERA WHIP

Matt Cain 30 15 5 2.86 1.05

Madison Bumgarner 31 16 10 3.26 1.11

Ryan Vogelsong 29 13 9 3.58 1.25

Tim Lincecum 31 10 14 3.91 1.47

Barry Zito 30 13 8 4.18 1.39

 


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