Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are they up to it? Giants pitchers must again carry team to finish

Over the past month, nearly every radio appearance I've made has included a question about the San Francisco Giants and if the Arizona Diamondbacks can beat the defending champions to the tape.

Each time, I've responded by saying that the Giants' numbers on offense had them ripe for a corrective slump and it depended on whether Arizona could take advantage of the fall or if San Francisco's marquee pitching staff could weather the storm in a repeat of the "torture" title run of 2010.

Well, the big slump is here. After being shutout 5-0 at the hands of Charlie Morton and the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night, the Giants have lost nine of their last 11 games.

They've also made the recitation of this embarrassing stat possible: While their excellent pitching staff has allowed the second-lowest run total in the league (411), their offense has somehow managed to score even fewer runs (399, lowest in the NL).

Taking a more microscopic look, the Giants have plated three runs or fewer in all of the nine losses during the aforementioned skid and have been shutout three times during the span. �(Imagine how bad they'd be if they had to face their own pitching staff.)

Through it all, though, the Giants still have a half-game lead over Arizona heading into Tuesday night's games. They also have six games with the snakes remaining this season ? including a three-game set in the second-to-last series of the year ? and own an 8-4 record against their rivals this season. So all has not been lost. Far from it, in fact.

But the question is indeed the same as it was before: Can the Giants pitching staff dig deep and allow them to build on the team's 28-15 record in one-run games?

Or will the pressure of carrying the load for two straight pressure-packed seasons ? including last year's extended playoff run ? inevitably become too much? Over these last 11 games, Giants pitchers are giving up an average of 5.77 runs per game and that includes two one-run efforts from Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong in the two victories.

It's also worth noting that last year's squad ? which had a +114 run differential ? only had a 28-24 record in one-run games.

So how long can their escapist magic really last?

From the AP:

"It's frustrating," catcher�Eli Whiteside�said. "When you're not scoring any runs, it's tough on the pitching staff, too. Trying to throw a shutout every night is tough. It's tough on the starters, it's tough on the bullpen. We just have to relax."

At this point, that's literally the only thing that the Giants pitchers can do. With GM Brian Sabean's plan on offense dependent on either Andres Torres or Aaron Rowand leading off, Aubrey Huff being an everyday starter and Carlos Beltran fighting through a sore wrist, it's again up to the pitchers to again lead the way.

That's not fair, nor is it a surprise.�It's just a reality.

One the Giants have been used to for way too long.

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