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Giants/Cardinals Series Preview

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This is the spot where I complain about the Giants’ hitting. This is where I bemoan that the Central-leading Cardinals are coming into town right when the Giants need to turn things around. This is where I pick a hitter and pitcher to watch, usually on the basis of their ability to humiliate the Giants.

No. I can’t do it this time. There’s a bigger pain coming around the bend. Don’t be short-sighted.

It’s too obvious for a buzzsaw team to roll into town at the Giants’ weakest moment and dominate. It’s too obvious that around the 15th game of the season, the Giants’ hitters suddenly snapped out of their collective amnesia, remembered who they were and at what they were programmed to flail, and then started a stretch in which they lost a bunch of 2-0 games. No, no.

This is where the Giants play surprisingly well, winning on two-out hits, broken-bat singles, and maybe a balk or two. This is where Jeremy Affeldt comes in with five runners on base and gets a quadruple play. This is where the Giants exhibit a patient, measured approach against Adam Wainwright and knock him out before the sixth inning. This is where Matt Cain gets more than three runs of support.

And at the end of the series, we’ll look back and think, my god, this team isn’t so bad. The Southern California trip was an anomaly. This Giants team can win through the strength of their starting pitching. They’re contenders again. I’ll forget I even wrote this and get excited about baseball again.

Then on Tuesday, Jamie Moyer will shut the Giants out on 79 pitches. The stretch will begin again, right as the Rockies come into town. John Bowker will swing at every closer’s bouncing slider with runners on base. Eugenio Velez will run to the mound to shake hands with his teammates in a post-victory celebration, only to be gently reminded that it’s the fourth inning. Rich Aurilia will hit into two double plays, even though he’s not really on the team.

We’ll pine for the Cardinals series and think, was that just a mirage? Did that really happen? Were the Giants a complete team for three games? We’ll shake our heads and resign ourselves to the losing, punchless Giants. That is, until they have a stretch in which they play really well. Then we’ll think the post-Cardinals road trip was the anomaly. This Giants team can win through the strength of their starting pitching. They’re contenders again. I’ll forget I even wrote this and get excited about baseball again.

So it goes.

Hitter to watch

Colby Rasmus is hitting even better than Albert Pujols to start the year. Rasmus is only 23, and he’s one of those commissioner-issued young center fielders of five-tool fury that every team has now. The Giants had a shot at Rasmus, but they gave up their draft picks that year for Armando Benitez and Mike Matheny. Well, that’s not fair. The 2005 Giants probably wouldn’t have picked a high-school outfielder in the first round, so it’s disingenuous to claim they missed out on Rasmus. No, the Giants would have picked a hard throwing college pitcher like Matt Garza.

But flags fly forever, right? No regrets.

Pitcher to watch

Every pitch Brad Penny throws will be a reminder that the Giants allocated their money poorly this offseason. There’s more than a pinch of 20/20 hindsight in this, as I would have complained if the Giants threw $7.5M at Penny. But now we’re watching Todd Wellemeyer every fifth day, and the Giants took the money they could have spent on a fifth starter and spent it on a second baseman who is such an integral part of the lineup that no one cares he’s on the DL. Frank Sanchez, or something. No one is saying, "just wait until Sanchez is back!" right now, but everyone is saying some variation of "DAMMITWELLEMEYERTHROWSTRIKESWHYAREYOUSOAWFUL."

Again, hindsight. Kind of.

Prediction

I’m not serious when I predict the Giants will handle the Cardinals, but the team will screw with our expectations and emotions at some point. This seems like a logical spot.