Simply by adding Jason Giambi to their roster, the Rockies boosted their offense.
Giambi only started one of the first six games after he was added to the Rockies roster.
Seth Smith, however, started all six games, due in a large part to Giambi’s presence.
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Manager Jim Tracy said by adding the threat of Giambi’s left-handed bat to the bench, it was easier to put Smith, a premiere pinch-hitter even though he is in just his first full big-league season, in left field on a daily basis. Smith leads major league pinch-hitters with a .458 average.
Smith responded to the regular at-bats by going 13-for-34 with three walks, five doubles, four home runs and 10 RBI in six games.
Smith provided the Rockies a much-needed offensive charge which, combined with San Francisco’s offensive sputter despite a recent trip to hitter-friendly parks in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, allowed Colorado to regain a two-game edge on the Giants in the NL West.
The Giants return to AT&T Park on Monday for a nine-game homestand that is critical in their postseason bid, with three-game series against San Diego, NL West-leading Los Angeles and then the Rockies. Important?
Well, the Giants do have an NL-best home record of 44-21, and while they are only 26-25 overall against the rest of the NL West, they are 14-4 against the Padres (5-1), Dodgers (4-2) and Rockies (5-1) at AT&T Park.
Familiar surroundings will be a welcome site for the Giants after splitting a six-game road trip despite the pitching staff allowing only eight runs.
Giambi is in a new role, and he is enjoying it. After struggling with Oakland this year, he was granted his release, signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies and was promoted to the big leagues when rosters expanded to 40 players on Sept. 1. His first three games he was a pinch-hitter and responded with four RBIs — a bases-loaded walk, RBI-single and two-run single.
“Things didn’t go in Oakland the way it was planned,” said Giambi. “I’m at the later part of my career and ready to DH, maybe play in the field two times a week. We had too many injuries things change and I got run down.”
With the Rockies, Giambi is getting his limited opportunities and enjoying it. He said a couple teams contacted him, but he opted to sign with the Rockies, where his Long Beach State hitting coach, Bill Geivett, is a top aide of general manager Dan O’Dowd.
“It’s a great fit for me,” he said.
Tampa Bay makes a last grasp at keeping its fading postseason hopes alive. The defending AL champions, 14½ games out in the AL East and seven games back of Boston in the AL wild card, travel to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park for series this week. They are in the middle of a 3-8 fade that includes being swept at home by Detroit over the weekend after losing two of three at home to Boston last week.
AL EAST leader New York has 16 of its final 25 games at Yankee Stadium, where they have a best-in-baseball 45-20 record. The opened a 10-game home stand Monday with a day-night doubleheader against Tampa Bay. The only remaining road games are three-game visits to Seattle (Sept. 18-20), Anaheim (Sept. 21-22), and Tampa Bay to close the season Oct. 2-4. No wonder Boston has its sights set on the AL wild-card.
AL CENTRAL leader Detroit took control of the division with a weekend sweep at Tampa Bay while second-place Minnesota lost two of three at Cleveland and fell back to .500. The Tigers have 14 of their 26 remaining games at home.
AL WEST leader Angels went for a four-game sweep at Kansas City on Monday, padding its lead thanks to Texas losing back-to-back games at Baltimore. The Rangers are 5-1/2 games behind Angels, but only three games back of the Red Sox in wild-card. They do, however, play 14 of their final 26 games on the road.
NL EAST leader Philadelphia went into Monday looking to avoid being swept in a four-game series at home by Houston, but the Phillies didn’t suffer in the standings. Cincinnati swept Atlanta during the weekend, knocking the Braves into third place, 8-1/2 games back. Florida took two of three from Washington to move back into second, but remained 6-1/2 games out of first and five games off the wild-card pace.
NL CENTRAL leader St. Louis expanded its lead to an 11-1/2 games over the Cubs, running off 11 wins in its last 14 games. The Cubs have even become a wild-card afterthought, falling into the fifth slot, eight games back of the wild-card-leading Rockies.
NL WEST leader Los Angeles stumbled to a 3-4 home stand against divisional dregs Arizona and San Diego, which allowed the Rockies to pull within 3-1/2 games in what has become the closest divisional race.
“If we do what we are supposed to do we are going to be fine. They are chasing us. We have control of our situation,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy on his team’s two-game lead on San Francisco in the NL wild-card race.
Keep an eye on
The top three teams in the NL West all took Aug. 31 gambles to bolster their pitching staffs, and initial returns were positive.
The DODGERS acquired RHP Jon Garland from Arizona. Garland, who was 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA in 27 starts for the Diamondbacks, beat Arizona in his Dodgers debut last Thursday, allowing two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out six in seven innings. He is scheduled to start Wednesday, at Arizona this time, against Diamondbacks ace Dan Haren.
The ROCKIES acquired RHP Jose Contreras from the Chicago White Sox. Contreras, who was 5-13 with a 5.42 ERA in 21 starts with the White Sox, allowed one run on eight hits and a walk, striking out five in a win, also against Arizona, on Saturday. He is scheduled to start Thursday, at Coors Field for the second game in a row, against Cincinnati.
The GIANTS signed free-agent pitcher Brad Penny, who was 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts at Boston. He debuted by working eight shutout innings, allowing five hits and a walk, in a 4-0 win at Philadelphia last weekend. He’s scheduled to pitch against San Diego on Monday and then face his former Dodger teammates on Sunday.
Pittsburgh went into Monday one loss away from not only being officially eliminated in the NL Central, but also clinching a major-league record 17th consecutive losing season. Toronto also went into Monday one loss away from official elimination.
Washington, in the National League, and Baltimore, in the American League, were the first teams officially eliminated this year.
Kansas City goes into the weekend with a tragic number (combination of Royals losses and Detroit wins) of three. Arizona and San Diego both had a tragic number of five for elimination in the NL West.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been rewarded for his careful treatment of rookie Rick Porcello. He makes his ninth start of the season on five days of rest on Tuesday, had thrown more than 100 pitches only once, and thanks to the All-Star Break didn’t pitch July 5-21. Porcello, 20, is still going strong. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in six of his last seven starts.
Dodgers lefthander Clayton Kershaw is winless in his last nine starts despite a 2.75 ERA. He is 0-3 in that stretch, having allowed more than two runs only twice (three runs in one game and four in another).
Pitching is supposed to be the key to success. Then there are the Yankees. They have overpowered the rest of the AL East and lead the majors with 87 wins with a rotation in which Job Chamberlain is being treated with kid gloves, and the likes of Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin and Alfredo Aceves.