July 21, 2011
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We'll know quite a bit about the Giants' chances of repeating of world champions by the end of next week, when the non-waiver trade deadline passes.We'll know even more, though, when the Giants wrap up a grueling 19-game stretch against legitimate playoff contenders that starts Friday against the powerful Brewers and ends Aug. 10 against the surprising Pirates.
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Essentially we're looking at nine days before the non-waiver deadline, and including deadline day we're looking at 11 days after it.Twenty days, 20 things to consider as the Giants either slog, thrive or tread water throughout what might end up being a defense-defining stretch.
1) Winds of change I: There was a time when GM Brian Sabean suggested that adding significant payroll to what's already a franchise-record tab of about 120 million was less likely than Barry Bonds making a comeback. Now? Not so much. You've been to the Dugout Stores, right? If the G's spend for a slugger, that's your sweatshirt dollars at work.2) Winds of change II: Sabean also has been adverse to "rental players" during most of his long tenure with the team. Now he's at least considering the notion, so your free-agents-to-be are very much in play.3) Dancing with your date: Perhaps you're among those with such great faith in the pitching staff that you don't feel adding offense is an absolute must. Sabean disagrees.4) Ditching your date: Aaron Rowand rode pine for not hitting last season, despite his big price tag. Ditto Barry Zito on the pitching side. This hasn't always been the way the Giants roll. It is now. They won a ring with that approach, and they can't win again without it. Thus, you're on notice, Mr. Huff. Mr. Belt, stay loose.5) Life is not fair. Neither is baseball: Three terrific starts and he's skipped for one bad one? Some people think Zito is being unfairly singled out. Not really. What's being spotlighted is the Brewers' bevy of right-handed power hitters.6) Skip one, skip another: As long as the Giants are skipping one Zito turn, it's curious that they aren't skipping another, i.e., keeping him away from hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park and the Phillies next week. Two reasons for that. One, the Phils are not the powerhouse juggernaut they've been in recent years offensively. Two, the Reds -- Zito would face them were he skipped in Philly -- are. And they play in even more of a bandbox.7) Sanchez I: By the end of this stretch, if not before, Jonathan Sanchez will almost certainly be ready to return to the active roster. What's his role? That largely depends on Zito.8) Sanchez II: Also by the end of this stretch, the Giants likely will have decided what to do with Freddy Sanchez. He's eligible to come off the 60-day DL on Aug. 11. Not the end of the world if he's not ready by then, but if he's not even close to ready, surgery will be inevitable and it's Jeff Keppinger or bust from here on out.
URBAN: Scouts high on newest Giant Keppinger
9) Brew Crew comes calling: The Giants dropped two of three in Milwaukee earlier in the year. The Brewers entered Thursday's action holding a slim lead in the NL Central and they're playing high-intensity games almost daily because the division is so tight. It's crucial the Giants win this series so Milwaukee doesn't start feeling like they have the champs' number.10) Kid Crawford: The Giants' lone win in Milwaukee came in Brandon Crawford's grand slam game. Crawford isn't expected to see much time in the series that starts Friday, but he'll certainly get some time during this 18-game stretch. Can he be counted on when the division race tightens in late August and September? We'll know when this stretch is over.11) Meet the Prez: The Giants go to the White House on Monday. What does that have to do with the pennant race? Nothing. But it's pretty cool, and it'd be even cooler if Brian Wilson were to bust out a white version of his ESPYs outfit. At the very least, it'll save time in the security screening process. No secrets with that get-up.12) Philly awaits: Don't think the fans in Philly haven't had this series circled on their calendar all year. It'll be the most hostile road environment the Giants have faced this season.13) Seeing Red: Dusty Baker's boys have played uneven baseball all season. If they get right by next weekend, the Giants could be in trouble, because they simply can't bang with that team in that yard.14) Seeing Ramon: The Giants need a catcher. The Reds have two. One is Ramon Hernandez, a solid hitter and veteran handler of strong pitching staffs. Don't be stunned if Hernandez moves from one clubhouse to another next weekend.15) Homeward bound: The Giants play better at home. Most teams do. But being at home for the final three series of this stretch is huge. The trade deadline will have passed, and the club will have a pretty good idea of what they're working with going forward.16) Killing them off: The Stephen Drew-less Diamondbacks are first up on the homestand, and if the Giants have, say, a six-game lead over the Snakes by then, a sweep would effectively behead the serpent.17) You again: No matter what happens in Philly next week, the Phils' series in San Francisco is going to be a doozy. If the Phils win at home next week, winning at AT&T becomes paramount for the Giants. It's not a statement series. It's a matter of respect.18) Yes, the Pirates: It's been a generation since the Bucs were relevant, but they're right there in the thick of the NL Central race, so you have to take them seriously. Imagine if the Giants are 10-6 going into the last series of the stretch. Huge difference between 13-6 and 10-9. It's gotta be at least 12-7 when it ends with Pittsburgh.19) And if it's not: Duck. Sabean will be throwing stuff.20) There is no 20. It's just a nice, round number to end on. Enjoy.