The Bee's Matt Kawahara raises five pressing questions about the Giants as they return from the All-Star break:
1. Can the rotation turn back the clock?
The rotation has had a heavy workload the past three seasons, including the two World Series runs, leading to questions about whether this is the year it catches up with them - an issue that seemed to arise again during Matt Cain's last outing, though he insisted he is OK physically.
It's also unknown what impact Vogelsong, who had a 7.19 ERA when he got hurt, can have when he returns - and who will make way for him in the rotation. Chad Gaudin has pitched well in six starts, while Barry Zito's road woes have contributed to the Giants going 1-7 in his last eight outings.
2. What to make of the no-hitter?
Lincecum is 5-9 with a 4.26 ERA. But in eight starts since June 1, he has a 3.16 ERA with 57 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 51 1 / 3 innings. Are those signs Lincecum is figuring things out after a year and a half of often maddening ups and downs?
His second half could provide some answers before the Giants must decide in the offseason whether to bring him back in free agency. More immediately, there's the question of how Lincecum responds to his high pitch count in the no-hitter, though the All-Star break gave him extra time to recover.
3. Is the offense coming around?
But it happened, and while the offense showed signs of life during the San Diego series - scoring 23 runs in the first three games - the Giants' record is a reflection of their run-starved June.
This is still much the same lineup that won the World Series last year - minus Pagan at the top, without whom the Giants have gone 15-28. But they could use a return to form from Pablo Sandoval (hitting .194 since his return from a foot strain June 24) and Hunter Pence (48 RBIs, but just 2 for his last 28 with runners in scoring position).
Buster Posey, in the midst of another All-Star-caliber season, needs their help.
4. Have they dug themselves too deep a hole?
The Giants aren't out of the race as a result, but the second half won't get much easier, with more than half of their games (42 of 77) against teams that are .500 or better. That includes 12 interleague games against the top four teams in the American League East, arguably baseball's toughest division, and 10 against Arizona, beginning with a three-game series at AT&T Park to open the second half.
The Giants play most of September in the division but will spend the entire second-to-last-week of the season in New York, a scheduling quirk with back-to-back series against the Mets and Yankees.
If the Giants want those series to mean something, they'll have to start making up ground soon.
5. Is there help on the way?
The Giants so far this season have brought up Kensuke Tanaka from the minors and taken a flier on Jeff Francoeur in efforts to spark their lineup, but as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, they haven't made any splashy moves. Manager Bruce Bochy has talked about the possibility of getting bullpen help, but he's mostly stuck by the line that the players in the clubhouse now are the ones the Giants will rely on the rest of the season.
That can change, of course, but it also will be interesting to see - if the Giants don't start turning things around right out of the break - how quickly the front office starts assessing how best to be competitive in 2014.