A funny thing happened to the Giants on their way to a fifth place finish: They started winning a lot of games. They have an 18-5 record in the month of July, and have surged into second place in the National League West. Can they keep this up, or are they set to regress to their former unimpressive ways?
San Francisco Giants
Record: 54-52, Second place in National League West
The last time they met
In 2018, the Giants came to Philadelphia for a four-game series, and the Phillies swept them right out of town. That success might have made the Phils a bit overconfident, because when they headed west for a three-game set, the Giants handed them a sweep of their own.
How are they doing this?
At first glance, it isn’t clear how the Giants are succeeding. They rank 14th in the NL in runs scored, and are ninth in runs allowed. So they’re bad on offense and mediocre at pitching. Those rankings have definitely picked up in the past month, but they’re still not putting up overwhelmingly great numbers.
Finish it in nine, Phillies
One thing the Giants are very good at is winning extra inning games.
Pablo Sandoval's walk-off home run gave the @SFGiants their 17th win in their last 20 games.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 24, 2019
That's their best 20-game stretch since 2001.
The Giants are now 6-0 in extra innings since the All-Star break.
No other team has more than two extra-innings wins over that stretch. pic.twitter.com/9MHU9b1wHz
Is that sustainable?
Probably not. Relying on extra inning and walk off wins generally isn’t a good formula to make the playoffs. But while it lasts, I suppose the Giants’ resurgence is a nice story - as long as you’re not like most Phillies fans who wish for nothing but pain and suffering for the Giants (Screw you, Cody Ross).
Red Sox gave up on Pablo Sandoval.— We Not Done Yet (@CandlestickWill) July 24, 2019
Nationals gave up on Trevor Gott.
dodgers gave up on Donovan Solano.
Padres gave up on Alex Dickerson.
Orioles gave up on Mike Yastrzemski.
Giants are paying less than $3M for all of these guys and they are huge parts of this win streak.
The problem for the Giants is that “Cinderella” teams don’t tend to have staying power. For example, Mike Yastrzemski has been hot, and is enjoying a nice overall season, but he’s also a 28-year-old rookie who never put up especially great minor league stats. Is he a late bloomer, or is this just a brief surge before he resumes his life as a quad-A player?
That isn’t going to help either
You may have lost track of Evan Longoria since he left the Rays (Although considering how much media attention the Rays typically draw, you may have lost track of him long before that). He hasn’t been very good since coming to the Giants last season, but recently, he finally started to hit like the star we once might have cared about.
Too bad for him that he recently strained his foot and will be on the injured list this week.
Who the heck is Alex Dickerson?
Perhaps the biggest reason to expect an impending falloff from the Giants is that their best hitter during this hot stretch has been outfielder Alex Dickerson.
That name probably doesn’t seem familiar because the only thing he’s really done throughout his career is get injured. He missed the entire 2017 due to back surgery, and then missed all of 2018 after having Tommy John surgery.
Nobody expected much when he signed with the Padres before this season, and sure enough, he didn’t give them much, batting .158 in 12 games. He was traded to the Giants, where he’s inexplicably become a star. Perhaps he just needed to finally get healthy, but I’m fairly confident that even a healthy Dickerson isn’t going to carry a 1.235 OPS for the rest of the season.
A look at the Giants’ starters
After getting off to a disastrous start of the season, Tyler Beede had greatly improved over the past two months. That is, until his most recent start when he gave up three home runs in 5.2 innings. He also tends to get wild, which isn’t a good thing when facing the likes of Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins.
Jeff Samardzija is now in his 12th season of being a decent enough back-of-the-rotation starter. He earned his first career win against the Phillies, but it’s pretty much been all downhill from there. He’s been especially bad in Citizens Bank Park with a career ERA of 13.91.
The finale will be started by rookie Shaun Anderson. Anderson is probably not going to earn too many Rookie of the Year votes with his high ERA (5.06) and tendencies to give up walks and home runs. Here he is giving up a bomb to Fernando Tatis:
The Secret Weapon
Drew Smyly has never faced the Giants in his career. This seems like a huge advantage for the Phillies, as the Giants will have almost no scouting report on him, and will probably be baffled by his repertoire. This will also be Smyly’s first career appearance at Citizens Bank Park, so I’m sure he’ll want to make a strong first impression for his new, adoring fans.
After spending most of his first two seasons in the majors as a reliever, Samardzija got his first career start on August 12, 2009 against the Phillies. Who was the opposing starting pitcher in that game?
The Giants’ cool down may have already started, with two losses in their last four games. With an unimpressive set of pitchers lined up against them, the Phillies seem poised to win two games and the series.