After a rough period which saw each of the San Francisco Giants‘ starters struggle and every bullpen pitcher being frequently pressed into use, the team seems to have gotten many of their issues worked out. Aided by a rain out and two off days in one week, the entire staff now figures to be fresh for the team’s weekend series in Arizona.
The Giants’ pitching issues peaked in their home-and-home series with the Oakland Athletics. Coming off injuries to key pitchers Ryan Vogelsong and Santiago Casilla, the staff was in a constant state of turnover and ended up filling a roster spot with three different pitchers on three straight days. Poor starts on consecutive days by Tim Lincecum and rookie Michael Kickham led to major bullpen overuse, with eight different relievers facing at least five batters over the five day period, including Ramon Ramirez and Chad Gaudin, who threw to 10 and 13 batters, respectively. Though the Friday rain out in St. Louis that immediately followed the Oakland series was a welcome day off, the pressure was most definitely on the pitching staff as they were faced with three games in a 30-hour-period.
Though starters Matt Cain and Madision Bumgarner both got knocked around in both games of the Saturday doubleheader, they each were able to aid the team by staying strong and pitching six innings apiece. The biggest boost, though, came from Gaudin, who came out of the bullpen to get a six-inning win in his first start since 2009. His start segued into a nice break for the staff, as the two-game series versus Toronto was sandwiched between two off days. The series featured what was arguably Lincecum’s best start of the year and a capable one from Barry Zito, which resulted in only six innings of bullpen use over four days.
Now that the staff has gotten into a bit of a routine, they seem to have developed a new bullpen hierarchy, with Jean Machi and Jeremy Affeldt serving as the primary setup men, Javier Lopez filling the lefthanded specialist role, and Jose Mijares, George Kontos and Ramirez being stretched out for longer, more inconsequential appearances.
Although they face 19 games in the next 20 days, look for the pitching staff to be more stable than it has been for most of the season, as it looks like they have found the right mix of performers to keep them in the game.