CIN: Homer Bailey (2-3) 7.06 ERA. SFO: Tim Lincecum (12-3) 2.18 ERA.
After taking two out of three in Houston, the Giants are riding some serious momentum. They are 12 wins away from matching their total from last year, are one game ahead of Colorado in the Wild Card, and only six-and-a-half back of the Dodgers in the NL West.
Furthermore, with a crucial August series looming next week against the rival Dodgers, the Giants will have a lot of opportunities to shed a lot of those pretender labels they were tagged with after they started the the second half with a 3-7 record. So far, it looks like that poor stretch may have been a fluke rather than a sign of things to come, but in fear of jinxing the Giants' playoff chances, I'm going to refrain from sticking to the statement.
While the Dodgers series is garnering all the attention, it is important for the Giants and Giants fans to not overlook this upcoming series with the Reds. The Reds aren't a good team, and injuries and lackluster player have decimated this team in the second half. After overachieving in the first half of the year, the Reds have been in free-fall mode, as evidenced by them losing 14 out of their last 16 games. Granted, the Reds in my mind have been a mirage all year, with their offense inflated by a ballpark that is just as home-run friendly as Citizens Bank Ballpark and Coors Field. The only decent players on this team are Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce (and he's hurt). Other than those guys, this team is horrible and the Giants should expect no less than a sweep in this series.
The Giants will have a very good opportunity to achieve that with Lincecum, Zito and Cain pitching in this series. I kind of wish we had Sanchez or Martinez pitching in this series so we could have Cain and Lincecum pitching against the Dodgers at home, but it is what it is.
A key guy to watch in this series has to be Pablo Sandoval, who is coming off a monster series in Houston and some very well-deserved love from the press lately (he had a feature in Sports Illustrated this week). I'm hoping that all this recent press loving doesn't effect him on the field, but the "Panda" has been too good and is hitting too well lately (especially with Freddy Sanchez hitting ahead of him) in my mind to falter now. I hope Sandoval has a big series, which gives him some of the necessary confidence he needs to rake in next week's crucial series against the Dodgers. I know people are ready to give the Dodgers the NL West, but if the Giants can sweep the Dodgers next week or at the very least, take two out of three, the NL West will be a very interesting storyline in the last month and a half that may have shades of Mets-Phillies 2007 or dare I say it, the 1951 NL Pennant race.
First things first though, let's hope the Giants welcome Reds manager and former Giants skipper Dusty Baker with a proper homecoming: a round of applause from the fans (he did do a good job as manager in San Francisco) and a proper mashing of Homer Bailey at the plate.
For game updates check out the SJ Mercury's Andrew Baggarly's Giants blog at Extra Baggs. For live game thread and chat, check out the McCovey Chronicles.