If we were sitting here on the first day of spring training, who would have guessed that the San Francisco Giants would pick up a series-clinching victory thanks in large part to a clutch pinch-hit home run from Brandon Hicks? How about that Ehire Adrianza would have a key RBI double and score a run in an incredible comeback inning that propelled the Giants to an Opening Day victory? And most of all, who would have thought that the Giants, after an offensively-challenged 2013 season where they averaged 3.88 runs per game, would score 23 runs over their first four games?
If you answered with an affirmative to all of those questions, give yourself a hearty round of applause. There was no certainty of these things happening, but after a few games general manager Brian Sabean and his staff look like very smart people. It’s extremely difficult to be disappointed with what their top free agent acquisitions, Michael Morse and Tim Hudson, have done thus far. Despite Morse’s status as a defensive liability, which has caused him to be lifted early, he’s been a rather significant contributor. The left fielder’s single led off the four-run seventh inning that led to an Opening Day comeback, and his pinch-hit RBI single was part of the Giants’ four-run eighth on Thursday. If he can continue to provide that type of clutch impact at the plate on a consistent basis, the Giants surely will be OK with his slight defensive deficiencies.
Hudson, meanwhile, delivered a refreshingly dominant pitching performance on Wednesday, picking up the Giants on a night where the offense wasn’t at its best. His true value obviously will only be gauged through a full season, but just in the early going, Hudson looks to be back to his old form, and looked much more polished than Thursday’s Diamondbacks starter, Bronson Arroyo, who was a realistic alternative had the Giants decided not to sign Hudson.
Most of all, though, the production from the supporting cast was uplifting during the opening series. While he hasn’t completely found a rhythm at the plate yet, Adrianza has done plenty of good things to help offset the loss of Marco Scutaro to injury. Hector Sanchez has looked better than ever, having picked up a pinch-hit single on Tuesday and an RBI double on Thursday. And Hicks has been strong in several opportunities as a pinch-hitter thus far.
Obviously it is too soon to make judgements on the true ability of this team, but at least for this series, Sabean’s team deserves some serious credit for the upgrades they made in getting Hudson and Morse at reasonable prices, discovering Hicks as a non-roster invitee, and having enough faith in Adrianza to keep him over the more experienced Tony Abreu.
On the flip side of things, the Giants need to avoid efforts like they had in Tuesday night’s loss, but when you really examine things, the two players most responsible for the loss were Matt Cain—who has been an anchor in the rotation and has been effective for nearly his entire career—and reliever Juan Gutierrez, who likely is going to be off the team when Jeremy Affeldt comes back next week. If those are the two biggest worries, it would seem that the Giants are in pretty good shape for the moment. As the season goes on, things always change, but for now it’s hard to complain about what San Francisco has done.