The San Francisco Giants' struggles keep continuing, as they dropped two more games at home this week to fall out of first place in the National League West division. With just five wins in their last 22 games overall, the Giants head to San Diego this holiday weekend in an attempt to right the ship.
The good news is the S.F. roster will see the return of first baseman Brandon Belt from the injured list today when they take on the Padres at 3:40 p.m. The bad news is that even San Diego is playing better than the Giants right now, as the Pads have won four straight games.
S.F.'s nosedive from the best record in the major leagues to potential also-ran status in less than a month even caught the attention of famed statistician Nate Silver this week, incidentally. Silver's argument? The Giants were lucky early on, and now they're unlucky.
Considering the famous baseball cliché uttered by one-time San Francisco Seals recruit Lefty Gomez—"I'd rather be lucky than good"—the Giants need to be both right now to stem the unfavorable tide that has washed them off the top of the baseball world since June 8.
Irony alert: the only two games S.F. has won in its last ten were games started by hitherto gas-can starter Tim Lincecum. The former Cy Young winner had a 4.90 ERA on June 25th when he took the mound against the Padres and threw a no-hit game. He also tossed eight shutout innings in his next start, against the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this week, to lower his ERA to a solid 4.06 mark for the season.
So while Lincecum's luck may have improved, his teammates' luck continues to stink. And unfortunately for the Giants, the former Freak doesn't pitch again until Sunday.
Belt's return hopefully will help an offense that has struggled lately: the Giants are 22-1 when they hold the opponents to one run or less, but the team is a mere 25-37 when they can't do that. Why? Because the offense needs to score five runs or more for S.F. to have its best chance to win.
When the Giants score only four runs or less, they are 19-34 this season. For a team known for its pitching prowess, the offense hasn't been doing its job.
To wit, S.F. is 18th in runs scored this year (343) and eighth in ERA (3.43). Yes, they are still very much in the postseason hunt, but it doesn't feel like it considering the June Swoon that has continued into July now with the two most recent losses at home to the Cardinals on Wednesday and Thursday when the Giants scored two runs total.
One final thought: San Francisco was able to win the NL West in 2010 and 2012 because they were very good in close games—good pitching with just enough hitting.
This year, that isn't the case. S.F. is only 13-13 in one-run ball games this year. The Giants were 91-66 in such games from 2010-12; they dropped off to just 28-28 last year as they finished under .500 for the first time since 2008.
And it looks like it could be more of the same this year if that .500 trend in one-run games continues, making that hot 42-21 start seem like the mirage Nate Silver made it out to be this week.