Bee staff writer Matt Kawahara weighs five questions facing the Giants in the second half of the season:
1. How will the rotation look? Tim Hudson is set to rejoin the rotation after the All-Star break, though manager Bruce Bochy has not revealed whose place Hudson will take. The likely candidate is Ryan Vogelsong, who was stellar in May but has a 4.23 ERA since the start of June and has already spent time in the bullpen this season. The tougher decision looms when Tim Lincecum is ready to return from a bruised forearm. It’s unlikely the Giants would use a six-man rotation, and it’s difficult to envision their relieving Chris Heston of starting duties after his breakout first half. Is Lincecum headed to the bullpen?
2. Can Brandon Crawford rebound? Crawford was a deserving All-Star after driving in the second-most runs for the Giants in the first half, despite his cooling off considerably over the past month. Historically, Crawford has posted much better numbers offensively in the first half than the second, a trend the Giants would like to see him buck over the next 21/2 months. Crawford has already eclipsed his previous high of 10 homers in a season, and at his current rate, his career high of 69 RBIs – set last year – should soon be topped.
3. Will Matt Duffy maintain his first-half pace? With the Casey McGehee acquisition a bust, the emergence of Duffy as an everyday player has been key. Duffy has stepped into a defensive position at third base that he was unfamiliar with before the season, and lately has been hitting third in the lineup, where the Giants feel he can both drive in runs and get on base in front of Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. Bochy said Duffy has made “tons of progress” defensively, and at the break only four National League third basemen have more RBIs than Duffy – three of whom are All-Stars.
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4. Is Angel Pagan coming around? Pagan has been dealing with a troublesome knee that seems to have sapped some of his offensive flair. He has no home runs and only four extra-base hits in his past 36 games, and five stolen bases on the season. Pagan, though, has recorded multiple hits in four of his nine starts in June, and in the last series against the Phillies went 7 for 15 with two multi-RBI games – his first since Opening Day. Pagan has been the Giants’ spark plug on offense in the past, and if he can regain that form, it will be a boost to a lineup that also expects Nori Aoki (leg fracture) back within two weeks.
5. Can they catch the Dodgers? The Giants compiled a 9-3 record against their rivals in the first half and played particularly well at home, where they swept a pair of three-game series. They have seven games remaining against the Dodgers – a three-game series in L.A. and a four-gamer at home in the final week of the season. For that series to still have division implications, though, the Giants may need to play better against the rest of the West than their 13-19 record in the first half. If the Dodgers add another top-line starter to complement Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, catching them might be a tall order.