Can the San Francisco Giants Turn Things Around?

Giants’ right fielder Hunter Pence greets Pablo Sandoval after Sandoval hit a homer in the first inning during Game 1 of the World Series at AT&T Park on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Lance Iversen, The Chronicle

These past couple of days have been refreshing for San Francisco Giants fans. After a gut-wrenching 3-16 slump, which included a 1-5 record against the Los Angeles Dodgers, being no-hit by Homer Bailey, and getting shut out by former prospect Zack Wheeler, the G-Men have won two games in a row. That’s the first time that has happened since June 18-19.

Sure, the wins are coming at the hands of the lowly San Diego Padres, the only team below the Giants in the NL West Standings. But after two strong outings by Madison Bumgarner and Chad Gaudin, clutch bullpen work, the energy of Kensuke Tanaka and the MVP performance of Buster Posey, the Giants and their fans have perhaps realized that this team is capable of playing winning baseball.

Throughout the dreadful stretch that saw the Giants drop to 10 games below .500, many fans have probably just assumed that they would go back to their old ways. “They’re the world champs! They will turn it around, right?”

As the losses kept piling on, the doubts began to creep in that this team may not even finish third in its own division. Perhaps this series in Petco Park has regained the confidence of the fans who began to believe that this just simply was not the Giants season.

Can the Giants, sitting at 42-50, turn their season around, make the playoffs, and compete for another World Series championship? Of course they can.

Why? They are playing in the NL West, the weakest division in baseball. Place them in any other division, and this article I am typing is about selling players at the trade deadline, not contending for the pennant. Even after one of the worst halves of baseball this team has played in years, the Giants are only sitting six games behind the Arizona Diam0ndbacks with 70 games, to play, an astronomical amount of time to make up the gap.

To put things in perspective, in 2010, the Giants were 4.5 games out of first in the west at the All-Star Break, around the same position they will find themselves after Sunday’s tilt with the Padres. Right out of the gate, the Giants will have a huge series against the Diamondbacks, at AT&T Park. If San Francisco can take the series, it will put it right back in the hunt.

As poorly as the Giants have played this season, they are still 26-19 against NL West teams, best in the division. The back part of the season is loaded with games against Arizona, Colorado, San Diego, and Los Angeles, which gives San Francisco plenty of opportunities to make up ground in the division.

Now, the difference between if the Giants can and if they will contend for the NL West pennant are two completely different things. A number of things are going to have to happen for San Francisco to play winning baseball the rest of the way.

First, the starting rotation has got to at least come close to the reputation that they had as one of the best in baseball. Madison Bumgarner is carrying his weight, Chad Gaudin has done more than anyone expected, Tim Lincecum has to stay consistent and Matt Cain, after a career year in 2012, has to earn the reputation of “the horse” that he once had.

San Francisco also needs Ryan Vogelsong, whether in the rotation or bullpen, to give the staff a much needed spark plug. Santiago Casilla (returning today) has to help steady the bridge to Sergio Romo, and Jeremy Affeldt has to find the strike zone.

As far as the offense goes, this season will go where the 3-4-5 hitters take them. Sure, consistent hitting from players such as Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Gregor Blanco will help, but the big bats will carry the team.

Even if All-Star Marco Scutaro continues to hit over .300 the rest of the season, the offense goes where the big bats will take them. If Buster Posey can sustain the fabulous season he is having and Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence return to their hot starts that they had to start the season, the Giants will be in the hunt to win the west.

Topics: Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, MLB, NL West, Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants, Tim Lincecum

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