The Giants bring momentum on their six-game road trip after taking three-of-four against one of the best teams in the National League over the weekend. After dropping the first game Thursday 6-3, San Francisco limited Atlanta to four total runs over the next three games. The Giants got some dominant pitching with the exception of Ryan Vogelsong from the starting staff. The offense also put up impressive numbers against a few Braves pitchers off to good starts in 2013 including Tim Hudson, a long time Giants’ killer.
Atlanta came into the series amongst the league leaders in team home runs, but San Francisco flipped the scrip hitting six home runs off in the series. Brian McCann homered twice in the series, but all the other power bats in the lineup were kept down by Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Tim Lincecum. Pablo Sandoval homered twice in the series and two splash hits into McCovey Cove came off the bats of Sandoval and Angel Pagan.
Production was evident up and down the lineup and a lot of Giants bats will hit the road with raised averages. Marco Scutaro is back to his late season 2012 form at .305. Scutaro has a 12-game hitting streak and has raised his average 90 points since it began. One of those hits over the weekend was his first home run of the season on Sunday. Buster Posey's average is up to .294, Hunter Pence is at .281, .279 for Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt is up to .233.
San Francisco improved to 23-15 and 7-3 in their last 10 games. Their home record also shot up to 15-7, which is no surprise to anyone. As for the N.L. West race in early May, the Diamondbacks slipped up over the weekend at home to the Phillies. The Giants lead the division and will look to improve upon their .500 road record with a stop in Toronto to square off against the Blue Jays for a short two game series. The team's recent power surge could continue at a park like the Rogers Centre.
Toronto and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were two of the biggest movers in the offseason. Corporate owners Rogers Communications and general manager Alex Anthopoulus decided to make a big splash by overhauling some of their pieces to make a serious run in the wide open A.L. East. The biggest move involved acquiring Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck from Miami. They bolstered their starting rotation and lineup with the trade while giving the cheap Marlins several top prospects from their system.
Toronto also made a package deal for 37-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Dickey was given a two year extension, but through eight starts his 5.06 ERA is quite a contrast to his Cy Young 2012 season. A lot of baseball observers and "experts" believed Dickey would thrive in the American League because hitters would be unfamiliar with his pitch. The change of scenery has worked against Dickey thus far, but his recent struggles date back to spring training. Dickey sits at 2-5 with a 5.06 ERA.
Toronto is already 9.5 games back of first place along with health issues. Third baseman Brett Lawrie missed the first few weeks recovering from a rib injury. Left-handed starter J.A. Happ was drilled in the head by a line drive in Tampa last week. Reyes sprained his ankle sliding into second in early April, but there is no definitive time table for his return. That has forced 31 year old Munenori Kawasaki, Bonifacio, and Maicer Izturis into additional action. The production level has taken an expected hit, but on paper the team's lineup should be able to stave off Reyes' loss for the time being.
The Blue Jays don't hit for average, but do mash a lot of home runs particularly at home. They are one of MLB's leaders with 51 home runs. Edwin Encarnacion leads the team with 11 home runs and Jose Bautista has nine. The familiar face of Melky Cabrera will see his old colleagues since Toronto took a flier and signed him to a two-year deal for $16 million. Cabrera has the highest batting average for Blue Jays batters with at least 100 plate appearances. He's hitting .261, just a bit off his enhanced .346 average he boasted as a Giant.
Pitching has been the biggest thorn in the side of the Jays in 2013. Toronto has the second worst team ERA in baseball at 4.74. Hard throwing right hander and Cal product Brandon Morrow owns the lowest starter ERA at 4.69. Closer Casey Janssen has been the lone bright spot after claiming the closer role once Sergio Santos went down last season.
Barry Zito is second all time with 20 interleague losses for his career. In 17 interleague starts as a Giant, he has gone 5-12 with a 6.75 ERA so the numbers run in line with most of Zito's tenure in San Francisco. He's in a groove so far allowing one or no earned runs in six of his seven starts. Zito and Dickey will square off Tuesday.
There was a bit of rumor swirling the Giants may skip Vogelsong's next start, but the struggling right hander is scheduled to go in Wednesday's game. He will be opposed by Morrow. San Francisco also made a move by bringing up hot hitting Brett Pill from Triple-A Fresno and sending Francisco Peguero down. Pill has been rewarded for his hitting in the Pacific Coast League and could be an asset in an American League park as a designated hitter.