Interleague baseball returns this weekend, much to the chagrin of many baseball fans. The Texas Rangers will look to get a little retribution for the 2010 World Series, as they head to San Francisco to take on the suddenly surging Giants.
San Francisco is playing much better baseball lately, winning nine of their last 11 games. What's been the reason for the hot streak?
Apart from Thursday afternoon, they've been catching the ball. The errors have been brutal this year. But more importantly, they're hitting. Not a lot, but they aren't getting bogged down in the 2-0, 1-0 games like they have been for the past three seasons. They can score four runs without it feeling like a holiday miracle.
When the Giants beat the Rangers in the World Series, Tim Lincecum beat Cliff Lee twice in the World Series. Lincecum also struggled mightily in August 2010. Why is he still struggling now? What's the difference between Lincecum then and now?
Command. He's leaving pitches up, especially his slider. He's still getting swing-throughs, and he's still getting strikeouts, but when he gets in the stretch, he's throwing too many hittable pitches.
His windup is filled with all sorts of moving parts, so it could be a mechanical thing. Or it could be an arm-strength thing that isn't allowing him to finish off his breaking balls. Not sure. But in his last four innings, he looked like the Lincecum who won a Cy Young. So that Lincecum is in there somewhere, moaning and trying to claw his way out, like John Cusack at the end of "Being John Malkovich."
With Brian Wilson out for the season, how has San Fran's bullpen fared? Are they vulnerable late in games?
Late in the games, they're cool. Santiago Casilla is a fine replacement, and the Sergio Romo/Javier Lopez combo is one of the best eighth-inning tandems in the game. What the injury did was move everybody up a slot, which means that Clay Hensley is the seventh-inning guy (which is okay, but not ideal), and that Steve Edlefsen sees a lot more important innings than any team would prefer.
Besides Buster Posey, is there really anybody to fear in San Francisco's lineup? Is Melky Cabrera actually this good?
Well, Melky isn't going to hit .360. But he's probably as good as he was last year -- I'm feeling confident that wasn't a fluke. Everyone points to his batting average on balls in play last year, but it moved from horrible to good, not good to outlandish. That can happen when a player makes some genuine improvements.
I wouldn't say the lineup has a lot of hitters to fear, but the entire outfield is hitting well. Gregor Blanco somehow turned himself from a minor-league free agent into one of the best leadoff hitters in the league, which pushed Angel Pagan down to the five spot ... where he's been deadly.
Texas is sending Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando to the mound this series -- who do you expect will give the Giants the most trouble? And who do you think San Francisco will fare the best against?
I'll guess that Feldman (who grew up in the Bay Area) will have a huge pass list, and that he'll have some extra adrenaline. His control-command ways are the sort that tie up the Giants at times. As to the one they'll fare the best against? No idea. The Giants have surprised me with how well they've hit this year, but I'm still not confident that they can hit anyone just yet. I was worried they wouldn't be able to touch Jason Marquis yesterday. (Spoiler: they touched the hell out of him)