Giants must be better than 'decent' to emerge from NL West dogpile

Bochy: 'We've got to get this offense going'

Giants must be better than 'decent' to emerge from NL West dogpile
May 24, 2013, 11:00 pm
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The Giants haven't scored in their last 19 innings against the Rockies. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN FRANCISCO – Giants manager Bruce Bochy described Tim Lincecum’s start Friday night as “all right” and “OK” and “decent.”

They were meant as compliments. Platitudes.

Sure, four runs in seven innings is perfectly decent for a mere mortal. It’s not so wonderful for a two-time Cy Young Award winner. Then again, expectations were tempered on the Lincecum front long before Friday night’s 5-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies.

[RECAP: Rockies 5, Giants 0]

The question the Giants need to be asking themselves: Is their rotation at large better than “all right” and “OK” and “decent,” and if not, where will they stand when the music stops in the NL West?

Here is a harsh note: By the time the last fireworks fizzled out and the crowd dispersed Friday night, the Giants and Rockies rotations owned ERA of 4.29 and 4.65. 

Guess whose was lower. Hint: it wasn’t the Giants.

The Giants are lower than the Rockies in one place, though. They’re in third place in the NL West, a game behind Colorado and Arizona. The Padres are just 5 ½ games behind the co-leaders. And the Dodgers, for all their injuries and the hooded headsman standing watch over Don Mattingly, are only seven games out.

[RELATED: MLB standings]

“There’s a lot of parity,” Giants left-hander Javier Lopez said. “A lot of the teams seem to be built the same. It’s about the pitching, and Colorado seems to be going that way now.

“You can make an argument for any team to win the West. It comes down to pitching and defense, with health as the X-factor.”

The Dodgers have gotten the worst of that X-factor. But no, they are not out of it. With Zack Greinke rejoining Clayton Kershaw atop the rotation, you can’t forget about them. And even if they do axe their manager … well, the 2003 Florida Marlins were 18-22 when they replaced Jeff Torborg with 72-year-old Jack McKeon, and they fitted themselves for World Series rings at year’s end.

Which team or teams will emerge in the NL West this year?

The Giants do seem to attract a different foil every season, don't they? In 2010, it was the Padres who battled them to the 162nd game. In 2011, the Diamondbacks and manager Kirk Gibson made good on a spring pledge to “dethrone their ass.” Last year, the Dodgers hired enough mercenaries to form a Foreign Legion before getting lost somewhere down the stretch.

Lincecum isn’t sure whether the Rockies, Diamondbacks or even the Dodgers will threaten to the end. The important part: If it comes down to a two-team race in late September, the Giants can’t take for granted they’ll be one of them. 

“We’ve got three teams at the top,” Lincecum said. “It’s a good time to separate ourselves from them, or at least try to. It’s still too early for one team (to separate). But if they do this to us, you definitely take it personally and want to slap back.”

If run differential is any indication, there’s quite a bit of separation already. The Rockies have scored 37 more runs than they’ve allowed. The Diamondbacks are at plus-28. The Giants form the middle ground at minus-1. Then you’ve got the Padres (minus-23) and Dodgers (minus-39).

Looking at rotation ERA, the Diamondbacks (3.38) and Dodgers (3.64) are far better than the Rockies (4.29), Giants (4.65) and Padres (5.03).

The way the Giants are scoring runs this season, they should be winning series and padding a lead in the standings. But this is not 2003, and they are not blasting out of the gate. Should the Dodgers hit their stride, the Giants will regret not pitching better during these first two months and lengthening their lead on the rest of the NL West. 

The Giants also know this: Given the way their rotation has pitched, they could be in a much less enviable place.

“We’ve won six in a row and then we’ve fallen back,” Lopez said. “Nobody has been able to pull away from the pack, and to be honest, that’s a good thing. It’s kept everybody in check. It helps you take the field with the same motivation each day, knowing you aren’t trying to erase a six-game deficit or anything like that.

“You’re playing for first place every day. That’s easy motivation.”

The Diamondbacks are the team that many scouts see as the most balanced in the division. But the Rockies have a legitimate middle of the order as long as Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are healthy. They’re not giving away outs. And rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado sure did dazzle with the glove Friday night.

 “They look like they’re making us pay for mistakes,” said Lincecum, “and they’re a good defensive team, too.”

The Giants have not earned any defensive platitudes from the manager with the way they’ve played these past two weeks. They have an ongoing concern at second base, where Marco Scutaro appears to have regressed with the glove in his Age 37 season.

But they have experience the rest of the division cannot match. They have all those elimination victories. They have esprit de corps. When all else fails, there is that to lean upon.

“I do think we’ll get there,” Lopez said. “We’ve shown signs we can get on a winning streak. I think you’ll see that happen when we get healthy and the starting rotation does what they’ve been known to do. When that happens, I think you’ll see a pretty good team. But any other team can get hot just like we can.”

“If the last three years are any indication,” said Lopez, “it’s not going to be over at the All-Star break by any means.”