SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy bought into the Giants Outfielder of the Week program by sending Cody Ross out to right field Tuesday night, leaving crazy hot Andres Torres in center and plopping Jose Guillen on the bench.
Guillen didn't go all Milton Bradley on anyone. Bochy said he spoke with all the outfielders when the Giants unexpectedly were granted their waiver claim to Ross, and he reserved special handling for Guillen.
There were no explosions. Not from the explosive Guillen, at least.
On the field, however ... ka-boom!
|Pat Burrell, added in June, and Cody Ross, added Monday, won't mind getting fewer at-bats if the Giants keep hitting like this. (AP)|
It won't always be this way for the Giants as they fasten their chin straps for the stretch run -- both cruising on Easy Street offensively and going with Pat Burrell-Torres-Ross across the board from left to right.
Bochy admitted speaking solo with Guillen, who can verge on the side of clubhouse-wrecker when he's unhappy, but declined to offer specifics.
"That's between him and me," Bochy said.
The way the Giants are turning it around following a sluggish slog through a tough stretch of schedule, though, it's going to be hard for anyone to ruin this.
They opened this homestand Monday having dropped two of three games each to contenders San Diego, Philadelphia and St. Louis. The usual howling from the loyalists ensued. Where's the offense?! Why is Pablo Sandoval more dangerous at the dinner plate than at home plate?! Our club is fading!
Then, from out of nowhere ... this.
"Man," Ross exclaimed late Tuesday, smoke still emanating from the bat rack, after the Giants pulled into a virtual tie for the NL wild-card lead with the Roy Oswalt-playing-left-field-Phillies.
Really, that about said it all.
Wasn't this the team that supposedly didn't know what a bat was for?
"That's a really good question," said Ross, whose arrival Monday coincided with this 27-run outburst over two games. "It's been nice since I got here.
"It seems like everybody's contributing. That's the formula. Combine that with some pitching and good defense, and watch out."
Yeah, that, and hire a hit man to head south to take out the Padres. Who, by the way, on Tuesday matched their victory total from all of 2009 with a pummeling of Arizona, running their best-in-the-NL record to 75-49 and maintaining their 5½-game lead on San Francisco.
For now -- and attention, Jonathan Sanchez, baseball's worst prognosticator -- the Giants' best option is to ignore the Padres, eye the NL wild-card standings and keep the focus tight. They've got seven more games against the Padres in September, but the way things have been going, that's like an invitation to repeatedly stick a fondue fork into their eyeballs.
Beautiful thing about this game, though, is that you never know. Last time the Giants scored 11 or more runs in back-to-back games before this was in June 2000. Last time they scored 11 or more in successive home games was in September 1973, when Bochy was in high school.
This wasn't the way the Giants were built. They were carefully constructed upon a solid foundation of pitching. Except, two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is a complete mess and Sanchez -- the knucklehead who predicted a sweep of the Padres two weekends ago that never materialized -- did his darnedest to give back the seven runs the Giants scored over the first four innings Tuesday.
The Giants haven't had a victory from Lincecum now in 26 days. It has been 39 days since they've gotten a "W" from Barry Zito.
Good time, then, for third-base coach Tim Flannery to suddenly risk needing rotator cuff surgery from windmilling runners home.
Torres, who has been stunningly good all season for a heretofore 32-year-old journeyman, set a career-high with four RBI on Tuesday (he ranks second in the NL in doubles, by the way), and Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval collected four as well.
Sandoval, in fact, has seven RBI in nine at-bats so far against the Reds after coming into the series with a disappointing 49. He's a bigger panda than the Giants would like (those eucalyptus leaves apparently are extraordinarily high in calories and saturated fat) and the organization is happy he will be wintering in San Diego this year. Theoretically, they can keep tabs on his workouts and diet.
(I like to picture him simply taking a room in Bochy's San Diego-area home as the manager personally monitors his diet, providing homemade salads with sunflower seeds and garbanzo beans every night. Judging by Bochy's reaction when I mentioned that to him Tuesday, look for Sandoval to work with a professional nutritionist instead.)
"I think the Panda's back," Torres announced in the Giants' clubhouse. "That's the Panda that I know."
"His front leg is not collapsing," slugger Aubrey Huff analyzed. "He's smooth and under control. When that happens, he can see the ball better."
The Giants, especially given their unexpectedly erratic pitching, sure could use a late-season Panda surge (and Freddy Sanchez, too, who was 4 for 4 on an everybody-hits Tuesday).
But if this is just a mirage with Sandoval, general manager Brian Sabean has done an exceptionally shrewd job of re-loading on the fly.
"We've acquired some nice players who know how to play the game," Bochy said. "Burrell, Guillen, Mike Fontenot and Ross give you great at-bats. They're professional hitters. They've been through it. They're not just calming influences, but the team has more confidence."
Quoth the Panda: "These guys can help the team. I think this is going to help the team win the pennant race and the division."
For now, just winning a series against another contender is a start. Let's see what September brings.