Sitting in his office in the Giants clubhouse last weekend, manager Bruce Bochy described his team’s first half as really “a tale of two halves.”
In the first half of the first half, the Giants had the majors’ best record through their first 63 games, going 42-21. Beginning June 9, the Giants went 10-22 over their final 32 games before the All-Star break, the worst record in the majors over that span, and their 91/2-game lead in the National League West disappeared.
While different facets of the team struggled at different times, the offense’s woes were the most pronounced. The Giants scored 95 runs in the final 32 games, and went into their final game before the break – an 8-4 win over the Diamondbacks – averaging 2.81 runs since June 9, second lowest in the majors to the San Diego Padres.
The Giants played the past month without leadoff hitter Angel Pagan (back strain), removed struggling Sergio Romo from the closer role and were shut out five times in 14 games before the break. Yet as the second half begins Friday, they are just one game behind the Dodgers.
All things considered, Bochy said, the Giants should be pleased with their standing after 95 games.
“It’s got to pick up for us to get to where we want to go,” Bochy said. “But if you look at what we’ve done the last two, three weeks and you told me that would happen but we’re a game out, I would’ve done cartwheels around this ballpark.
“We’ve got to remind ourselves of that and how fortunate we are, because there are a lot of teams that would love to be right there where we’re at.”
If the Giants are to make a second-half playoff push, it appears their pitching may have to carry them. The starters had a 3.13 ERA over the final 18 games before the break and allowed two or fewer runs in 12 of those, with Tim Lincecum leading the way by giving up just one run total in his final four starts.
All-Star Madison Bumgarner led the staff with 10 wins and Tim Hudson had a 2.87 ERA, helping mitigate a poor first half from Matt Cain, who was 2-7 with a 4.18 ERA and will be pushed back in the rotation to start the second half.
Pagan is expected back shortly after the break, and his return should be a lift for the Giants, who since the start of 2012 are 156-126 with Pagan in the starting lineup and 66-81 without him. Still, Bochy said in early July the Giants should be able to overcome the absence of one player – something they seemed capable of early, when they were getting contributions throughout the lineup.
An illustration of how things changed in June: In the first 63 games, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Hicks combined for 53 RBIs, mostly from the 7-8 lineup spots. After that, they drove in a total of six runs in 32 games, and Hicks was designated for assignment.
The Giants went into the break on a high note, scoring eight runs for the first time since June 1. But will that stand as an anomaly – or a springboard into the second half?
“I think the challenge for us is we have to look at the overall record right now,” catcher Buster Posey said. “We’re still in a good spot, as poorly as things have gone for us the past month. And we have to go forward these last 70 games or so.”