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Monday, October 27, 2014

SF heading back to KC in driver's seat

After the Royals came into town and took the first game at AT&T Park Friday night for their second straight win, games 4 and 5 became the real momentum changers of the series so far.

Through the first three innings of Game 4, it looked like KC was gonna run away with this game and take a 3-1 series lead, but the Giants showed why they've won 2 tittles the last 4 seasons and came up with an impressive comeback to not only win the game, but completely blow KC out of the water, 11-4. I think that was the big turn of the series, or at least I'm hoping it was. Had the Royals held on to win that game, they take a commanding 3-1 lead and would have forced San Francisco to win the last 3 games in a row in order to take this thing. However, with the comeback, the Giants sapped all the momentum KC had been building off the back-to-back wins and completely swung it in their favor with that thrilling Game 4. It seems like everyone got involved a little in Game 4, with Pablo Sandoval providing clutch hit after clutch hit, Joe Panik coming up big and the big days from Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. But the real hero of Game 4 has to be Yusmiero Petit, who really took over and completely stopped the bleeding that Vogelsong had started, and gave the Giants the chance to come back in that game. If you follow us on Twitter, you'll know that after the NLCS, I stated that I'd prefer Petit over Vogey as the Game 4 starter, but somehow it all worked out in the end.

Then came the ever so pivotal Game 5, a game in which I think all Giants fans had a pretty good feeling about heading in with their ace and one of the better starting pitchers in the postseason history at this point. And Madison Bumgarner certainly did not dissapoint. With the groove he was in early, I figured the Giants may only need a couple runs tonight in order to take this game. They scored 5 of course, but could have done with just 1 with MadBum in complete "beast mode". Sandoval and Pence got the offense going, but Brandon Crawford and Juan Perez came up with the big hits tonight, both driving in multiple runs on the evening and cruising to a easy 5-0 victory. Bumgarner was the talk of the night though, and really has been the talk of the series. He shut the Royals potent, speedy offense out, holding them to just four hits and allowing zero free passes on his way to striking out 8 in the complete game victory. Like a true ace, MadBum just gets tougher as the game goes on, and If the Giants are able to go on and win this thing in Game 6, I think Madison get's the World Series MVP. Now, not to get ahead of ourselves though, cause they still have to win one of these next two in KC. The thing the Giants do have slightly in their favor, besides the 1-game lead, is the fact their pretty darned good on the road in the postseason, and they have two pretty solid bets going in Jake Peavy and Timmy Hudson lined up for the next two starts.

Yordano Ventura may be the toughest Royals' starter to hit when he's on though, and he already handed the Giants a loss in this series, so Game 6 will be no cakewalk. Still, the Giants have complete momentum, have the experience closing out teams, obviously, and should be the clear front-runners at this point to take the 'Series and officially be categorized as a Dynasty in baseball's rich history, but that conversation is for a later date. First off, they need to finish this out, and although Jake Peavy has had some hiccups his last two starts in the playoffs, I expect him to be on his game Tuesday night.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Game one should dictate entire Series

Both the Giants and the Royals have pretty much steam-rolled their way into the World Series as the obvious two best teams in their league during the playoffs. While the Royals have gone undefeated to this point in October, the Giants have lost just two, and both teams have plenty of momentum heading into Tuesday night's game one.

There's been so much breakdown of this series over the last few days, and I'm sure we've heard just about every body's opinion at this point, so I'm just gonna keep it short and simple. Each team will send their ace to the mound in game one, with Madison Bumgarner facing James Shields, giving the edge in the pitching match-up to the Giants. That should be the theme of the series, as the Giants' starters are stronger and more experienced than KC's. However, when we get into the bullpen, it's a whole different story. The Giants' pen has been nails, for the most part, this postseason, though they've been prone to giving up the long ball. The Royals' pen has been stingy, and they have a line of guys who can dominate innings down there. This is not a team the Giants will have an easy time coming from behind against like they were able to do against Washington and St. Louis, especially in the late innings, so the theme for San Francisco should be getting some runs on the board early. You may see more bunting and hit and runs earlier in the game than usual for that reason.

The Royals are gonna run on the Giants like no other team the Giants have seen this year, and it's going to be a challenge for both Buster Posey as well as the Giants pitchers to keep those guys from running wild. Kansas City led baseball in stolen bases this season, and have pretty much run at every opportunity in the playoffs. I said these two teams were very similar in the way they both put pressure on the defense, but they do it in different ways. The Giants will grind out at-bats, work counts, make the defense stay on the field and challenge them to make plays. They've gotten thrown out at home a few times, but for the most part, that formula has worked. The Royals, however, are going to try and get on base and run on you. They do have some pop throughout the lineup, but really play more like a National League team than any other American League team I saw this year.

Now, I read a position vs. position breakdown of this series a couple of days ago, and I think it ended up pretty even. I think this series is going to really come down to who pitches better, makes less mistakes in the field and can jump out to early leads. Neither of these bullpens are likely to give up leads late, so whichever team has the lead into the seventh inning is more than likely gonna keep that lead. The big wild card for me in this series will be the DH for the Giants. They'll finally get to use Michael Morse Tuesday and Wednesday in games one and two, which will drastically help out their lineup. The Giants haven't hit many long balls this October, but the ones they've hit have been huge, and one of those came off the bat of Morse, who's only had a couple at-bats since mid-September and hasn't played steadily since mid-August. Even if Morse tears it up in the two games in KC and can play the field for 6-7 innings, I don't think Boch will tinker with left field when the series moves back to San Francisco, especially with how clutch Ishi's been.

With the Giants experience in the playoffs and superior starting pitching, I think you have to give the slight edge to them, even though nobody has been able to figure out KC this month. Of course, Vegas has the Giants as underdogs, as you can see the odds at AllPro, and many are calling this series a match-up of destiny vs. dynasty. I'm gonna put my money on the dynasty and say the Giants win this thing in six. Game one will be huge though, cause if they can hand the Royals their first loss of the playoffs, it may rattle them a bit, whereas if KC knocks around MadBum and takes game one, they may feel like nobody can stop them (if they don't already). I'll probably check back in tomorrow after the game as I wont be able to post again tonight.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Giants take NLCS, off to Kansas City

Well folks, this is a feeling I can certainly get used to, and if your reading this blog, most likely your in agreement. For the third time in five seasons, the San Francisco Giants will represent the National League in the Fall Classic after a thrilling game 5 win over St. Louis at AT&T Park Thursday night.

In what was a series that was determined by who played the better situational, team baseball, the Giants ran away with it. It was a bit closer than the 4-1 series win would indicate as the Cardinals flexed their muscles on multiple occasions with big home runs while the Giants manufactured runs, put pressure on the defense and forced their way across homeplate, so to speak. It was two different styles of play clashing, and the Giants superior pitching, defense and timely hitting won out. The Giants didn't hit any long balls in the series until game five, but they got them at the opportune time when they needed them the most. Madison Bumgarner's performance was brilliant once again, and he deservingly took home NLCS MVP honors, but how about Travis Ishikawa in this series. Not only did he come up with the big, base clearing double in game three that set the tone for the Giants to take that game early, he ends up hitting the walk-off blast to send the club to the 'Series. What a long way to come for a guy that was pondering his baseball future in recent months. Despite his bad miss-judge on that Jon Jay double, the dude has gone out of position and held it down while providing some clutch at-bats. Bochy should have no problem rolling with him in left field when the Giants head to KC Tuesday, at which time they can finally get some at-bats from fellow game 5 hero Michael Morse as the starting DH.

Now, to me, this series came down to the Giants out-pitching St. Louis and really making less mistakes them them in the field. Bochy had a very interesting, yet somewhat generic quote the other day when he said the postseason is built into this teams DNA and it really is. All the sudden the playoffs role around and free-swinging Pablo Sandoval has become an extremely patient and dangerous hitter. Gregor Blanco is looking like an adequate leadoff hitter. Joe Panik, another guy who played a huge role in Game 5, looks like he's a five-year veteran out there. The bullpen looks untouchable and Travis Ishikawa of all people becomes one of the offensive mainstays of October. They grinded out at-bats, made the Cardinals defense stay on the field and force them to be perfect and as we saw in Game 4, they aren't perfect all the time. The Giants did what winning teams do, what teams who've been here before and know how to play at this stage do. They may not have as much talent as the teams they're beating in the playoffs the last few years, but they play harder and smarter baseball, and have ice water in their veins when the game is on the line.

There's numerous other things I can point out about Thursday's clincher, including the move to Affeldt in the ninth which was brilliant, and how MadBum willed the Giants to another win despite not having his A+ stuff the whole night, but if you've watched these games closely, then you already know. No Pagan, No Morse (until now of course), no Cain, no Lincecum (for different reasons), no Scutaro? No Problem!

Now, that being said, we'll celebrate this one tonight, but this journey is far from over. The Royals are no joke, and a much different team than the Giants beat in their last two World Series appearances as well as the three teams they went through to get to this point now. The Royals are much like the Giants in a way where they'll manufacture runs, get on base, steal, take advantage of an error and stretch out innings with patient at-bats. We'll breakdown that upcoming series much more at some point this weekend (including the who takes the ball in game four, Yusmiero Petit or Ryan Vogelsong) but for now, I want to stop typing and get back to celebrating. As a dedicated fan and blogger for this club, this truly just gets better and better the each time you get here, and I can't wait to see what next week has in store for us.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Giants vs. Cardinals in NLCS: Part 2

Two years ago, the Giants downed the Cardinals in the NLCS and eventually cruised to their 2nd World Series tittle in 3 seasons. After winning a tight NLDS Game 4 over Washington at AT&T Park Tuesday night, they'll have a chance to do it again.

Ryan Vogelsong showed up in yet another crucial October start and did exactly what he had to do and that was throw up some early zeroes. In fact, he was so sharp tonight it took Washington a few innings to hit him. Vogey kept to the script in what has been an extremely well-pitched October, not just on the Giants behalf, but on both the Nationals as well. The Giants put pressure on Washington in this one, and although they couldn't quite come up with that big multi-rbi hit, they were able to set themselves up to take advantage of Washington's mistakes. The Nationals would have had to play a perfect baseball game in the field Tuesday night in order to beat the Giants and they couldn't quite do it.

There were a lot of Giants that played a role in this series, and guys that don't always get the big headlines like Sandoval, Posey, Pence and Bumgarner. One is young Joe Panik. It's taken Panik a few games to catch up to the advanced pitching in the postseason, but just as he did after an initial slow start with the Giants this summer, he turned it on at the right time. I can't stress to you how important that kids emergence was for this team. Without him, the Giants may have never found an answer at second base and I doubt they'd be in the position they're currently enjoying. There wasn't a more important Giants hitter in Tuesday's game than Panik, as he went 2 for 4 with an RBI and scored the game winning run. The other guy I wanted to highlight was Brandon Crawford. B-Craw had the huge hit in the Wild Card game, and had a solid NLDS. Still just a .250 hitter with average power in the regular season, Crawford has always shown a knack for making the hits he does get big ones and it seems like he's involved in virtually all of the Giants big offensive innings this October. The Pence catch at the wall in right, the way Hunter Strickland and the rest of the pen buckled down after giving up that mammoth game-tying shot to Bryce Harper and even Gregor Blanco getting on base a couple of times at the top of the order, all played big roles in this game as well. In fitting Giants' fashion, they got contributions from guys all over the roster in this one and once again found a way to get it done.

The way the Giants have come into this postseason, complete underdogs with reserves making up 2/3 of their outfield and the question marks within the rotation after MadBum and Peavy towards the end of the year is a complete testament to how experience can play a huge role in October. Once again, Blacno has been plugged into a role in which he's filling some pretty big shoes (Melky Cabrera in '12, Angel Pagan this year), but it's not much mattered to this point as he's done his job. He got on base twice in Game 4 and I think he's going to be huge to the Giants offensive success vs. St. Louis if he can get on base consistently like that. There's also some speculation the Giants may get their starting left fielder back for the NLCS. Even if they could play him just 6 innings in the field and get him a few at-bats, it would be a huge boost to an offense that could desperately use another shot in the arm. Travis Ishikawa has held down the spot and provided a some decent at-bats and a reliable glove in left, but the Giants need that big right-handed bat to break up Belt and Crawford in that 7th spot. He seems optimistic though, and even if it's in a limited role early, you'd have to think the Giants will role with him over a guy like Gary Brown, who's likely a little out of his element at this stage. Perez obviously has the leg up with experience, ability to bunt but I like Brown's upside and how unknowns can be big in October. All in all, it was impressive the Giants took down the 96-win team with as thin of a positional roster as they had. Getting Morse back, again even with limitations, could help a ton with St. Louis.

Some other good things the Giants have going for them heading into the NLCS is a well rested rotation and pretty rested pen. All Giants starters in this series were able to get relatively deep into their starts and no reliever was taxed heavily at all. Not to mention, Sergio Romo's slider looks like it's in 2012 postseason form, Santiago Casilla, Javy Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt look like their usual stingy selves and at least no more Bryce Harper in 2014 for rookie phenom Hunter Strickland. The pen is definitely a strength for the Giants right now. As for the rotation, well, we saw what they did vs. the potent Washington bat's. Many thought that MadBum would be tough, but you could get to the Giants starters after him. That it wasn't the dominant Giants' rotation of the past two World Series runs. Maybe not as dominant, but so far just as effective. Peavy has looked like a reborn ace in a Giants uniform and outpitched his younger counterpart Strasburgh in Game 1. The big question though was how Hudson's arm was going to fare, and I think he answered that one with a vengeance in Game 2. Huddy's never been here before, he's pumped and I expect him to be every bit as tough against the Cardinals as his arm seems to be taking well to this downtime between series'/starts. They have the pitching to keep them in every ballgame, and it's going to come down to which team can get an early lead more often with St. Louis, and whichever team that is, likely goes onto the 'Series.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Giants clicking at the right time

After a torrid start to the season, and a very sluggish middle of the summer, the Giants have really turned things up of late. They're the top team in the NL Wild Card race and moved to within a game of the NL West-leading Dodgers with Friday night's victory. With a soft schedule and an improving squad, they look primed for a strong finish.

Last post, we talked about the steadiness of the offense, and how they've really done a complete 180 since the emergence of Joe Panik in that two hole and Andrew Susac as Posey's backup. Each rookie's success has given Bochy freedom with the lineup and in turn, this team in hitting and scoring runs like they were in May. Most importantly though is their best hitter has started to look like their best hitter again. Buster Posey was having a steady, yet unspectacular season up until the latter part of August, at which point he's really kicked it into another gear. He's hitting right around .450 with 7 homers and 22 RBI over his last 20 ballgames and like it does when your superstar is rolling, it makes the lineup around him better. It's helping that Angel Pagan and Joe Panik are steadily getting on base atop the lineup, giving the middle guys chances to do damage. Posey and Pence there back-to-back in the 3-4 spots have become one of the more imposing 1-2 punches in the league, and I really think Bochy has stumbled upon something there with that lineup. Pence gives Posey legit protection, and Pence has consistently been the most steady and clutch Giants hitter since opening day and he's a strong choice as the cleanup guy for that reason. Pence was brilliant in the 1 and 2 spots in the lineup, but if you read us consistently here you'll know I've longed for Pence to be moved back to the middle of the order and it's showing exactly why. Thankfully, Joe Panik made it possible.

One thing I wanted to mention as part of this teams success lately too has been the improved play of the bench. They were such a major weakness for this team for much of the season, but with Susac and Ishikawa in tow now and Gregor Blanco all the sudden remembering how to hit a baseball, the Giants appear to be gaining a little bit of depth. Blanco and Posey have been the Giants' two hottest hitters of late, with Blanco registering an average north of .425 in 36 at-bats this month. He's stepped in for Michael Morse seamlessly and has done his part in filling the offensive void since taking over for Morse. Joaquin Arias has also seen his average start to trend upwards of late as well. I'm not quite ready to call the bench a strength, especially with overmatched Juan Perez still seeing crucial at-bats, but they've been getting the job done when it counts of late.

Glancing at the rotation, if you would have told me in June that come September Tim Lineceum would be demoted to the pen and Matt Cain shelved for the year, I would have thought the Giants were toast. However, the Giants rotation, with the way everyone is throwing right now, may be the strongest I've seen it it a couple of years. No Dr. Jeykl and Mr. Hyde Tim Lincecum or the launching pad that was Barry Zito. Madison Bumgarner has been ace-like all year, but Cy Young-like the last couple of months, collecting his 18th win Friday and dropping his ERA to 2.91 with 7 shutout innings of 3-hit ball, 9 K's and no walks vs. the Dodgers. Tim Hudson, although he's not as dominant as he was those first 8 weeks of the season with that low-2 ERA, continues to pitch like a legitimate number 2 and Vogey has been above-average in terms of fifth man standards. The two guys that are really pushing this rotation over the top and making it one of the better, deeper ones in the league though are Jake Peavy and Yusmiero Petit. Peavy has looked like the Peavy of 5 years ago since coming back to the NL West (5-4, 2.29 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 47 K's in 9 starts) and the vastly underrated Petit already looks much more effective than the man who's place he took. In fact, I know I'm jumping ahead of things a bit here with two weeks left, but if the Giants go into a "best-of" series, their strongest 4-man rotation right now would be MadBum, Huddy, Peavy and Petit. Despite getting hit pretty hard by the Rockies two starts ago, Petit has the ability to dominate with more regularity than Vogelsong at this point and that's what you need in the postseason. Plus if he's a little shaky in his first postseason outing, Boch can turn to his postseason ace reliever, Tim Lincecum. 

Besides beating LA, the Giants got some more good news Friday regarding Brandon Belt, as the first basemen has been cleared to play and may be back in the lineup in the next few days. He could get a pinch hit at-bat or two before re-joining the lineup but should be out there any day now. As far as the other injured Giant, Michael Morse, the progressions are nearly as advanced. Morse is swinging at 50% and his injury which he suffered August 31st, usually has a recovery time of anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. The Giants are hoping to get Morse back before the end of the year but can't be banking on it, which makes Belt's hopefully successful, return that much more meaningful. And remember, the last time Gregor Blanco was pressed into everyday duty late in the year in left field, the Giants won the World Series.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Giants getting boost from youngsters

A little over a month ago, the Giants were in desperate search for a halfway decent second basemen as they seemingly failed with every guy they trotted out there in Marco Scutaro's absence. Then all the sudden they found themselves in the need of a catcher after concussion issues with multiple players opened a major void behind the plate and Buster Posey.

Enter Joe Panik and Andrew Susac. The Giants top pick from the 2011 draft, Panik had a quiet start to his professional career before a solid season in AA Richmond last year and a torrid start at AAA Fresno this season. He's really been the story of the second half of the season and he just reached the 150 at-bat plateau making 2014 his official rookie year. It's not like his success has been a little 2-week lucky streak either, as he's shown he belongs. The 23 year-old second baseman has thrived in all aspects of the game since taking over the everyday job at second base August 4th. Since that date, he's hit .391 with 1 home run, 8 RBI, 11 runs and a .907 OPS in 87 at-bats. He's taken over the second spot in the order, finally allowing Hunter Pence to move back down into the middle, something I've been asking for since June. Panik's been a big reason why the offensive ship has seemed to right itself, and why the Giants are optimistic heading into September. After Saturday night's win over Milwaukee, they now sit atop the NL Wild card standings, and are now just 2.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West. What was once a black hole on the roster, and a spot that most assumed would go without a legitimate Major League caliber player the rest of the year not only has become a strength now, but a commodity for the future.

Andrew Susac, playing behind Buster Posey, hasn't had the chance to make quite the impact that Panik has, but he's made a strong impression on the Giants' staff himself. He's hitting .225 with 2 homers and 9 RBI in 60 at-bats, but has hit over .250 with both his HR and 8 RBI in the month of August. With Hector Sanchez likely out for the year due to concussion complications, and Brandon Belt still on the DL through at least mid-September with the same issue, the Giants will need Susac to avoid the rookie mishaps with a big role down the stretch. Michael Morse will continue to be the primary first basemen until Belt does return, and luckily Gregor Blanco is hitting a bit better out in left, but should things change and Blanco starts slumping and/or Belt doesn't return soon, it'll all lead to more playing time for Susac.

The Giants didn't make that blockbuster deadline deal, but they've gotten a shot in the arm from aforementioned rookies and the one deal they did make has slowly but surely begun to pay off. Jake Peavy took a no-hitter into the 8th inning Saturday night at AT&T Park vs. the Brewers. He did yield a one-out single to Mark Reynolds in the top of the eighth inning to lose the bid but put together his best outing in a Giants uni by far. He now sits at 3-4 with a 2.66 ERA in 7 starts since coming over from Boston and all of the sudden is looking like the San Diego Jake Peavy. With Tim Lincecum's move to pen likely permanent the rest of the year, the Giants will need everybody in the rotation to step it up and so far the results have been there. Lincecum did have that hot streak during his no-hitter where it did look like he was beginning to take that next step, but he's become a liability and a guy that's almost a guaranteed loss lately. Moving him from the rotation is addition by subtraction in itself, so if Petit pitches like he did vs. the Rockies Thursday, then this rotation will be much stronger down the stretch. Not to mention, Lincecum has shown to be brilliant in his short stints in relief during his career, so hopefully the Giants have an ace reliever to use in any situation down the stretch. A wild-card that Bruce Bochy could get real creative with.

Random Notes: The Giants offense as a whole seems to be heating up. Pablo Sandoval has been steadily warming up, Buster Posey has been hitting balls out of the ballpark and watching his average rise, and even Michael Morse is starting to drive in runs with more consistency. Brandon Belt isn't expected to start doing any baseball work for two more weeks, but this team may have enough to get into the postseason without him. At which point, they most definitely will need him, so they have to do whatever is necessary to get Belt healthy over the next month.... Besides the guys getting the headlines these days like the Peavy's and Panik's, there have been some unsung heroes as well. One of which has been Travis Ishikawa, who's finally given this team a professional bat off the bench and hopefully someone they can keep on the roster after Belt comes back (assuming Belt does come back)... We've hit the waiver trade deadline day, and unless the Giants get something done in the next 24 hours (highly unlikely), then they will be getting no more outside help the rest of the way, and if they do, that person won't be postseason eligible.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Giants must take advantage of schedule

With the way things are going, it's hard to imagine the Giants aren't more than five back in the West and still right near the top of the NL Wild Card race. Nevertheless, after they've failed to turnaround a miserable end to the first half, they're still very much alive in the playoff race and have plenty of baseball left.

First of all, if they're going to get things back on track, they have to start taking advantage of the soft schedule they have coming up. They wound up splitting the mini two-game set with Chicago, but now is the chance to really get going. Their next 6 games are against the sinking Phillies and rebuilding Cubs, and if they cannot manage to muster up a winning record vs. those two, then maybe it'll be a tell of what's to come. To finish off the month, things are going to get harder as they have a trip to Washington on tap and then a showdown with the NL Central leading Brewers to close out August. Obviously, in order for them take advantage of these next two series, they're going to have to start hitting the ball and scoring some runs. Jake Peavy was brilliant vs. the Sox Wednesday and was finally rewarded with a bit of run support in that 7th inning to avoid yet another tough luck loss due to run support. The win was Peavy's first as a Giant but hardly his first quality outing. That overturned call at the plate really shifted some momentum, otherwise, they may have not scored that day the way the offense was looking. Look no further than Buster Posey's lead-off triple in the fifth, after which the Giants' 4-5-6 hitters all failed to get the guy in, as a testament to the failures in the clutch for this team. When they hit they win, period. That simple.

Now, it's not all bad. They did manage to win Wednesday and avoid what was starting to look like it was going to be a frustrating two-game sweep at the hands of the ChiSox up until that seventh inning and have an off-day before the Phils come to town Friday. They've gotten Angel Pagan back now for a week, and he looks healthy and has started to contribute, coming up with the big two-RBI, two-out single to give them the lead Wednesday. They also seem to have found at least a semi-decent option at second base in young Joe Panik. The youngster had a couple of multi-hit games last week and has hit safely in seven of his last nine ballgames. In the last 10 days, his average has spiked 60 points and his OPS has gone up over 100 points. With Matt Duffy's demotion and the Giants abandoning their search for second basemen, it looks like they're going to roll with the rookie the rest of the way, and that's not a bad thing at all.  Now, if he can keep showing ability at the plate like he has been, maybe the Giants could move him up into the number two spot in the order and get Pence's bat back into the middle of the lineup. Even hitting mostly leadoff, he's led the Majors in RBI since the break. I think one of the major problems with this offense is not having Pence in the middle of the order where he can do the most damage. Of course, they need to have guys getting on ahead of him in order to do that, but Angel Pagan, and hopefully now Joe Panik, are showing the capability of doing that.

Speaking of the middle of the order, the Giants have to be concerned with what's going on with Brandon Belt, and it's something I've had a bad feeling about for a while. Something about this concussion just sounded like it may be something that hampers him the rest of the way and if that's the case, you can kiss his season goodbye. That's the big question mark at this point. They got Pagan back, they appear to have found a solution at second and now just have to get that one final link back in Brandon Belt for this team to be all systems go, but nobody knows quite when that will be. He's first eligble Friday, but there has been no indication of that or a return at all this weekend. My guess is the Giants will play it safe and give it at least two weeks this time before testing the big first basemen. They still have a big month ahead of them in September and if they need to rest Belt an extra week to insure he's ready to go full throttle next month then so be it.

_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________
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