As they wait for their ace, Giants get right back near top of NL West

As they wait for their ace, Giants get right back near top of NL West

SAN FRANCISCO — Derek Holland walked up to the microphones late Monday night, a Warriors cap tugged over his curly hair and a koala cartoon on his chest. He introduced himself as Derek Lastname, a nod to a bungled and incomplete graphic that made it onto a national network’s broadcast of the game. 

When asked about being pulled after four innings, he gave manager Bruce Bochy credit for going to a pinch-hitter who drove in two runs with the bases loaded. When told that he was on pace for 27 strikeouts after whiffing the first four Diamondbacks, he pointed out how hard the feat is. Then he puffed his chest out so the writing on his t-shirt was clear. 

“But I am…totally koalafied,” Holland said.

Yes, these Giants are having fun. And who could blame them? They’ve won five in a row, they just swept a good Phillies team, and they beat the Diamondbacks 10-3 on Monday by scoring seven runs in the bottom of the fourth, immediately after a two-run double by the visitors. Oh, and they get Madison Bumgarner back on Tuesday night. 

The Giants once hoped Bumgarner could come back in time to keep them in the race. Now the hope is that their best player can vault them to the front of the pack. They are 30-30, and just 1 1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks and Rockies, co-leaders of a division that has yet to show a contender. 

Players will always tell you that there are no excuses. But in moments of honesty, these Giants will also tell you that they will happily take their current record given Bumgarner’s two-month absence. 

“That means we did our job,” Holland said. “Now we’ve got to continue to keep doing it. This is the time to gain some ground and make moves and get where we feel we should be.”

A week ago, the Giants looked headed for a tailspin. Now it’s not hard to picture them grabbing hold of this division. 

The lineup is the deepest in the NL West. Andrew McCutchen, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval and Nick Hundley all homered Monday. Buster Posey had two hits in his new No. 2 spot in the order, including a big two-run double. Hanson is a weapon off the bench. Joe Panik looks suited for leadoff life. Evan Longoria is a vast improvement over last year’s third basemen and Gorkys Hernandez has been a revelation. Even Hunter Pence got into the mix Monday. 

The bullpen might be the deepest in the NL West, too. Pierce Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A to clear a spot for Bumgarner, but eight remain, and it’s the best Giants group in several years. 

The rotation has been the weak spot, but the weekend was full of positives and…Madison Bumgarner returns Tuesday night. Did we mention that? Last Tuesday, the Giants dropped their third straight road game and fell to 25-30. What a difference a week has made. 

“They’ve done a great job of bouncing back,” Bochy said. 

What the next 25-26 games will tell us about the Giants and A's


What the next 25-26 games will tell us about the Giants and A's

The schedule is always a treacherous way to decide the future of a baseball team. Teams get hot and grow cold again based on much more than the color of their uniforms and whether they cab or drive to the ballpark.

But it can be reasonably inferred that the San Francisco Giants were eager to reach this part of their season, in which 20 of the 26 games between now and the All-Star Break would be played in their relatively clement Third Street digs . . . and that the Oakland Athletics would be just as dismayed to hit the same stretch, since 20 of their last 25 would be played away from home – in San Diego, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Houston and San Francisco.

But even if you throw out the last three for each team given that there are no hotels involved, these are still long stretches without schedule balance.

For the A’s, who are average in every way imaginable (20-20 at home, 16-16 away), this stretch could eliminate them from their thin hopes of a playoff spot, if only because Boston, New York, Houston and Seattle seem to lose so rarely, and a struggle between now and July 15 could cause their already daunting 10-game gap with the postseason spots to grow beyond their ability to control it.

For the Giants, on the other hand, their deficit is a much more manageable 4 ½ games with Arizona in the NL West and four with Washington for the second NL Wild Card. Moreover, their health shortfalls are supposed to end soon, with both Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to return before the break.

But oddly, the Giants are racing toward rope-cutting time, in which they have to decide if (a) they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline, and (b) what they want to buy and what they have to sell. That is why this next stretch could well determine their fate just as much as Oakland’s.

San Francisco hasn’t been healthy at all this season (only two teams have spent more disabled list days so far than the Giants), but nobody cares. Every team has injuries, and every team deals with them. In short, life is cruel, and then the body part replacements come.

But the Giants have been kicking the rebuilding can down the road for awhile now, and this next stretch – against Miami, San Diego, Colorado, at Arizona and at Colorado, then St. Louis, the Chicago Cubs and finally Oakland – will very likely solve their most pressing conundrum.

Specifically, whether it’s worth it to draw from an already-thin prospect list to chase a veteran or two who could propel them into October, or whether it is better to bag the whole attempt and try to go with a full remodel.

The Giants haven’t rebuilt their rosters for a decade now, and said rebuild was an unqualified success, if judged only by rings and parades. But that time is again upon them, as much as they like to claim otherwise, and the matter of when that rebuild should commence will be settled to some extent by these next 26 games.

At least that is how the Giants would like to frame it. Both Arizona and Los Angeles could fall off the earth’s mantle and come back to the Giants, or one of them could heat up and render the whole exercise moot. Things change all the time in baseball, and they don’t follow a linear path. It’s kind of like WAR (wins above replacement, that is, rather than the other one). It all depends on the formula you use.

Mike Krukow reveals why Giants 'were not too happy' on Sunday in LA

Mike Krukow reveals why Giants 'were not too happy' on Sunday in LA

With every major holiday that occurs during the season, all MLB teams have their jerseys and hats tweaked to feature the colors associated with the holiday.

On Memorial Day, it's camo. On Mother's Day, it's pink. On the Fourth of July, it's red, white and blue.

For Father's Day, it's light blue, and that made for a slightly awkward situation Sunday in Los Angeles as the Giants' black hat was replaced by a light blue hat. Shirts underneath the jersey had to be light blue.

Appearing on KNBR 680 Monday morning, broadcaster Mike Krukow was asked about the Giants' wearing blue against the Dodgers.

"What is up with that? Serious business. And the boys were not too happy about that," Krukow said before the phone connection cut out.

Why do MLB teams wear blue on Father's Day? It's to raise awareness for prostate cancer and raise money for research to fight the disease.

So the Giants may not have been thrilled about wearing the color of their arch rival, but it was for a good cause.

After beating the Dodgers on Sunday, the Giants are back home Monday where they open a 10-game homestand against the Marlins.