Aside from the season opener, this might be the series that most excites San Francisco Giants fans thus far this year. No, the Giants aren’t in good postseason position, but there’s reason for excitement. They’re riding a three-game winning streak for the first time this year, and the offense is clicking. They’ve scored 25 runs in their last three games, and have averaged 6.7 runs per game over their last seven contests.
And Joey Bart is finally here, giving you one very clear reason to turn on the TV every night (or day).
I’m genuinely excited for this weekend’s slate. The only downside is that Madison Bumgarner is still on the Injured List, so we’ll have to wait a while longer to see his return to where he played the first decade of his career.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Where: Oracle Park, San Francisco, California
When: Friday (6:45 p.m.), Saturday (6:15 p.m.), and Sunday (1:10 p.m.)
National broadcasts: Friday (FS1)
Where they stand
San Francisco Giants
Record: 11-16, fifth place in the NL West
Run differential: -28, seventh in the MLB West
Postseason standing: Out of the playoffs, with nearly everyone ahead of them, but honestly not by much
Current momentum: Won three in a row
Record: 13-13, fourth place in the NL West
Run differential: -11, sixth in the MLB West
Postseason standing: Second Wild Card in the NL
Current momentum: Lost two in a row
Three Giants to watch
Joey Bart: I mean, come on. This is the Giant to watch. He’s the top prospect in the organization in most publication’s eyes (can publications have eyes?), and debuted on Thursday with mesmerizing defense and the hardest hit ball in a game that featured Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Shohei Ohtani, Brandon Belt, Wilmer Flores, and Mike Yastrzemski.
Even if you have no other reasons to watch the Giants, watch them for Joey Bart.
109.5 MPH exit velocity...in slo-mo pic.twitter.com/RfTsyK3jbL— SFGiants (@SFGiants) August 21, 2020
Austin Slater: I keep waiting for Slater to cool down. It hasn’t happened yet. It will obviously happen eventually — he’s not going to retire as the greatest hitter in MLB history (though if you give me 10,000:1 odds ...) — but it’s starting to look like it won’t happen as dramatically as we once thought. Maybe instead of cooling down from MVP level to replacement level, he cools down from MVP level to comfortable above-average level. That would be ... uhh ... cool.
Logan Webb: Webb’s had an interesting start to the season, which, it bears noting, is still just his age-23 campaign. It seems that in every game he either flashes great stuff with not great results, or questionable stuff with strong results. His ERA dramatically outperformed his FIP early in the season, and has done the opposite since.
There’s something electric in his game: the 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings is nice, but undersells just how nasty some of his movement is. When he’s on, you can’t look away.
But there are also the worrying signs, like the 11 walks, 2 hit batters, and 2 wild pitches in just 20.1 innings, giving him a WHIP north of 1.5 despite the fact that he’s limited contact (and hard contact in particular). We talk a lot about the future arriving with Bart, but it’s worth remembering that Webb was born only 27 days earlier than Bart. He’s part of the Giants long-term plans, and every start in as interesting data point there.
Three Diamondbacks to watch
Ketel Marte: I don’t think Marte’s 2019 got quite the recognition it deserved, probably because the switch-hitting middle infielder had yet to have even an All-Star caliber season when he put together a 7.1 fWAR campaign and finished fourth in MVP voting, while hitting .329/.389/.592. He hasn’t accessed that power yet this year, but his contact skills are still phenomenal, as he’s hitting .343 thus far.
Robbie Ray: Usually I use this segment to highlight players who are performing really well, but I’m going to go in the other direction with Ray. The lefty is struggling in a huge way to start the year, allowing not just a hit per inning, but nearly a walk per inning (20 walks in 22 innings) as well. That’s resulted in an 8.59 ERA and 7.71 FIP in five starts.
The Giants are feasting on left-handed pitchers this year, with a .821 OPS. And now they’ve added Bart to the mix.
Ray takes the mound for Friday’s series opener, and it’s an opportunity for the Giants to keep the momentum going, and get into Arizona’s bullpen early.
Zac Gallen: On the other side of things, right-hander Gallen has been very nice this year, with 36 strikeouts to 8 walks in 30 innings. He’s on pace to start Sunday’s game, and with the Giants offense not doing as well against righties, he’ll be a formidable challenge to a currently red-hot lineup.
Best case/worst case
Best case scenario: The Giants just won three straight games, which came after blowing three healthy leads in four games. They’re probably not a good team, but they definitely have the ability to play like one for stretches, and it’s not like the Diamondbacks are particularly good right now. A sweep is on the table.
Worst case scenario: The Giants offense comes back to earth, the pitching struggles mightily, and Joey Bart goes hitless as the DBacks throw water on the Giants’ fire.
I don’t think the Giants are better than the DBacks, but they’re currently playing better, and I say that takes them to a 2-1 series win.