Urban: Giants have the momentum, A's have arms

May 20, 2011, 6:28 am
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May 19, 2011
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Mychael UrbanCSNBayArea.com

When in doubt, go the easy route: blame the Cubs.Specifically, blame Chicago. The Windy City's inclement weather Sunday blew away the opportunity to watch what was lined up as the three most exciting pitching matchups in the Bay Bridge Series' recent history. Without Sunday's rainout, which pushed Tim Lincecum's scheduled start to Monday, the expected trio of sellout crowds at AT&T Park this weekend would have been treated to Lincecum vs. Oakland ace Trevor Cahill in Friday's opener, Jonathan Sanchez vs. Brett Anderson in a battle of nasty southpaws on Saturday, and stoic Matt Cain vs. spastic Gio Gonzalez in Sunday's finale.No. 1s, No. 2s and No. 3s squaring off for Bay Area bragging rights. What a story it could have been.That said, it's not like the matchups we'll see instead are dogs. The A's are still trotting out the best three pitchers on what might be the best young staff in the American League. The Giants' new No. 5, Ryan Vogelsong, has plenty of momentum heading into his meeting with Cahill. Lincecum vs. Anderson should be a doozy, and there's something quite appealing about Sanchez vs. Gonzalez, two lefties with no-hit stuff but occasionally combustible command of the mental side of the game.PODCAST: Battle of the BayWho has the edge? That's a tough one, but if you happen to think momentum actually means anything in such situations, the Giants seem to have the upper hand.They're coming off a 3-3 road trip that started 1-3 and ended with a two-game sweep of their real rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers -- with both victories of the thrilling, good-to-the-last pitch variety. On Wednesday, Cody Ross hit a tie-breaking homer with two out in the ninth to give San Francisco an 8-5 victory. Thursday saw Nate Schierholtz turn in the Giants' defensive play of the year, a diving catch to end the game with the bases loaded, securing a 3-1 victory for previously winless Madison Bumgarner, picking up shaky closer Brian Wilson and covering for Ross himself, whose approach to Rod Barajas' looping single into left field with two out and nobody on was probably a tad too cautious for some tastes.Given the myriad injuries the Giants have suffered of late, a road split was big -- don't expect the A's, who long ago cornered the market on debilitating injuries, to have much sympathy -- and pushed the defending world champions' record over their past 15 games to an impressive 11-4.Returning to the shores of McCovey Cove will feel awfully good to the Giants, too. Their previous homestead featured six wins in six games against six sellout crowds.
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The A's? They just got swept in a two-game series by the worst team in baseball, the Minnesota Twins -- at home in Oakland.But you know what most baseball people say about momentum. It doesn't mean a thing. Momentum is that day's starting pitcher. And the A's have one of the best in the game going Friday in Cahill, whose stuff makes that of Vogelsong look pedestrian by comparison.So it's not going to be easy for the Giants by any stretch. The trio of A's pitchers working this weekend has more than enough potential to repeat the three-game massacre that Oakland slapped on struggling San Francisco in Oakland last season, when the Giants scored a not-so-grand total of one run in the series that serves as the impetus to take a flier on recently released Pat Burrell. It should be noted, though, that this edition of the A's is every bit as capable of seeing the tables turned. They're every bit as bad offensively, for the most part, as the Giants were at this time last season.COHN: Predicting the Bay Area's best pitchers in 2016
Then again, the Giants aren't exactly a juggernaut, either. They have, however, displayed the ability to step up their game against particularly tough pitchers.They beat Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley in L.A. They've handled Ubaldo Jimenez fairly well, too, although this year's Jimenez is a shadow of last year's.Can they do the same against Cahill, Anderson and Gonzalez? We'll know by Sunday evening. It should be a hell of a series either way.If it's not, it'll be for one of two reasons. One, of course, is the weather in the Windy City. The other is this whole end-of-the-world, rapture business. And truth be told, that's probably the Cubbies' fault, too.