Over the last two seasons, the Giants have become an extremely process-driven organization, focusing as much on the way they get to good results consistently as the ones they're actually seeing on the field. That approach would have allowed them to take positives away from a weekend at Petco Park regardless of what the end result was Sunday.
The Giants won the final game but still lost the series. They dropped two of three to the San Diego Padres, but in an odd way, they should feel much better about themselves than they did on Friday afternoon when they walked into the ballpark looking to keep it rolling.
A three-game series can be decided by just a couple of breaks. If Darin Ruf's drive to right, for instance, had landed about three feet to the left, the Giants likely would have taken two out of three. But a season is decided by consistency, and over three games, the Giants showed that their rotation is capable of being a strength for the long haul.
That made the weekend in San Diego a big win regardless of what the final scores were.
Logan Webb hung with Yu Darvish on Friday, giving up three runs in six innings. Anthony DeSclafani allowed a three-run homer in the first inning on Saturday but then faced the minimum for six innings, outlasting Blake Snell, a much higher-profile offseason acquisition. On Sunday, Kevin Gausman easily outdueled Joe Musgrove, lowering his ERA to 2.04 with six more strong innings.
The rotation was dominant in April, but much of that good work was done against the Colorado Rockies and Miami Marlins. Facing a full-strength Padres lineup that's as good as any in the NL, the Giants got 18 innings from Webb, DeSclafani and Gausman, who combined to allow seven earned runs. Pitching like this all year will certainly allow the team to stay in the race.
"The starting pitching has really stood out at the beginning of the season. It doesn't really matter the lineup, although I'll acknowledge that the Padres lineup is dangerous and one through eight they can really work a deep count but they can also hit a home run off you," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I think you've got a (lineup) that is as good one through six as any in the league and our starting pitching continues to keep us in games and give us a chance to win games.
"I think long term that's a formula for success."
Kapler cautioned that it's just May 3 and the Giants have "a long way to go." They certainly have their concerns, too. The lineup was punchless for most of the weekend and hasn't found any consistency through 28 games, and the Tommy La Stella injury won't help. There remain questions about parts of the bullpen, too.
The easiest way to stay in contention, though, is with a strong starting rotation, and the one the Giants have put together has been a huge surprise. Their 2.34 rotation ERA is the lowest in baseball by a third of a run, just ahead of the much higher profile New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and Padres groups. Giants starters are second in innings pitched (165 1/3), fourth in batting average allowed (.202) and seventh in strikeouts (158).
They padded those stats over the weekend while facing the full Padres lineup for the first time. Fernando Tatis Jr. got hurt in the second at-bat of the series in early April, but he was red-hot coming into this weekend and was held to just one hit -- a homer on an outside pitch by Gausman -- while striking out three times. By getting the win Sunday, Gausman allowed the Giants to go 3-3 through their first six games against the favored Padres, all of which were on the road.
Gausman is the ace of the staff, but he watched Webb and DeSclafani mix it up the first two days and appreciated their approach. He said the Giants are keeping opponents from sitting on one pitch and doing a good job of attacking the zone when they need to, but also expanding at times. The success might be a surprise to outsiders, but Gausman said this type of weekend is something he saw coming in the spring.
"I think if you asked anybody in the spring how the starters looked they would have said they look really good, and I think we've done a good job of keeping that going," he said. "All of these guys are trying to just go out and compete and be healthy. I think we have a lot of different looks, from (Alex) Wood, who is a funky lefty, to Disco who kind of does it all, and Webby can do it all. Sanchez is a sinker guy and then there's me, and then you put Johnny (Cueto) in that mix, too, and he kind of does everything too.
"I think we make it tough on teams."