With power and pitching, San Francisco aims high again
SAN FRANCISCO — Eight games into the 2014 season and the San Francisco Giants, as early leaders sitting atop the National League West, look like they’re going to be one of those teams, the ones you can’t quite figure out until, before you know it, they’re in the World Series and you’re left wondering how in the world that happened? And even then, you have no good answer, because the Giants managed to play all season long above and beyond reasonable expectation.
OK, let’s slow down. Even starting the season with a healthy 6-2 record, declaring the Giants some kind of NL West juggernaut-in-waiting — that honorific still seems destined for their deep-pocketed neighbors six hours to the south — certainly feels premature. But if the Giants can keep scoring runs as easily as they have been — 47 runs in eight games, as well as a league-leading 12 homers — and keep pitching with the prowess that’s brought home two World Series titles the last four seasons, then you get the sense that anything can happen by the Bay this season.
Playing in front of 42,166 sun-drenched fans who sweltered in near-80-degree heat for much of the balmy San Francisco afternoon, the Giants pitched and pounded their way to a 7-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in their home opener on Tuesday. Tim Hudson kept the Diamondbacks off-kilter all day with a biting 90-mph sinker and a mix of his cutter, splitter and four-seam fastball that allowed him to cruise through eight innings on 101 pitches and keep the visitors to only two runs.
Brandon Belt’s league-leading fifth home run got the Giants on the board just two batters into the game, and they never looked back. In the third, Buster Posey’s soft smack of an RBI single to right off Trevor Cahill was followed by Michael Morse’s two-run single, which essentially put the game away.
When San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy spoke after the game of Morse’s contribution and overall power potential for this year, specifically in how nice it was to have "a left-fielder who can hit the ball out of the ballpark," it was difficult not to immediately make the most Giants of all comparisons. Since Barry Bonds’ final year with the Giants in 2007, the team has started someone new in that position on Opening Day every year since.
The hope, for now, around China Basin is that Morse will make a natural power-packed bookend to right field with Hunter Pence, who’s still only batting at a .125 clip this season, a rare weak link as the Giants’ lineup currently stands (and likely a temporary hiccup at that).
Perhaps the most promising development for the Giants is that few outside of their home environs truly expects greatness from there. But that’s how it was in 2010 when they stunned the Texas Rangers for one championship and that’s how it was in 2012 when they swept the Detroit Tigers for another.
This year is supposed to be about the cash-heavy Dodgers, the overdue Nationals and the maddeningly consistent Cardinals. But if the Giants keep their current bearing, they could end up shocking a few opponents along the way to yet another flag-raising by the Bay.
It’s still absurdly early for such high-minded talk, but they never stop believing around these parts.