The formerly surging San Francisco Giants are mired in their worst funk of the 2014 MLB season. They’ve lost eight out of their last nine games to enable the arch-rival Los Angeles Dodgers to gain 5.5 games in the NL West standings over the past 12 days. The Giants remain four games ahead of the Dodgers in the division, although it’s now apparent that San Francisco isn’t going to run away with the West.
Giants front office executives aren’t panicking despite their recent struggles. San Francisco remains a legitimate contender in the National League, especially considering the manner in which they’ve succumbed to their recent pitfall. The Giants’ inability to close out the Colorado Rockies over a three-game set at AT&T Park last weekend was a bitter anomaly.
The Giants don’t typically self-destruct in the late innings. As KNBR weekend post-game host Marty Lurie would say, “That’s baseball.”
In a weird way, the Giants were due for a rough patch. Nobody ever bulldozes through 162 games without suffering extended defeat. At 42-21, the Giants were on pace to win 108 games. Realistically, that was never going to happen. On this date in 2003, the last season in which San Francisco achieved the 100-win mark, they owned the exact same record as they do 11 years later (43-29). In ’03, the Giants were deadlocked with the Dodgers atop the NL West on June 20. They would go on to win the division by 15.5 games, posting a .621 winning percentage.
The Giants don’t have significant reason to freak out, but they do have an opportunity to “Panik.” Top-rated infield prospect Joe Panik is terrorizing opposing pitchers in the Pacific Coast League, smashing five home runs while driving-in 45 runs with a solid .316 batting average in 321 plate appearances. The Giants have a chance to do what the Dodgers did in 2013: infuse their lineup with a jolt of youth.
The Dodgers did it with Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig barely just over a year ago, a move that jump-started a historic mid-summer run. The Giants similarly did it on 2010, giving Buster Posey the call-up on May 29, a move that ultimately resulted in San Francisco’s first World Series triumph. Even though Panik might not be the high-profile caliber of player that Puig and Posey are, he’s a potential difference-maker.
While Angel Pagan continues to nurse a stiff back and Brandon Belt prepares for a rehab assignment, the Giants need a jolt of energy in their lineup. Panik can provide that. The Giants have no reason to lose their cool, but they have every reason to do whatever they can to stave off the Dodgers and reclaim a division they used to own.