The Giants won their eighth consecutive game on Sunday, sweeping a weekend series against the Rays thanks to a Brandon Belt homer and a Joe Panik RBI single in the eighth and six solid innings from Jake Peavy:
In addition to sustaining their winning streak, the Giants' victory pushed their record to 22-8 over the last 30 games -- a stretch that ties them with the Rangers for the best mark in baseball over that period. Along the way, the Giants have opened up a sizable six-plus-game lead over the Dodgers, giving them a cushion as the midway point nears. To think, these same Giants were 12-13 at April's conclusion.
So how have the Giants reached this point, where they're arguably the second-best team in the National League as well as the hottest club in baseball? Here are three statistics that should explain it.
1. The Giants are 23-5 in games started by Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto
Won-lost record is a tricky, oft-meaningless way of examining performance, either at a team or individual level. With that in mind, consider this more of a fun fact than anything: the Giants' record when Bumgarner or Cueto starts is better than Jake Arrieta's record was last season (22-6), when he won the Cy Young award. The Cubs as a team were 25-8 in Arrieta's starts, meaning the Giants are also on pace to eclipse that mark. A confluence of factors have led to this, but Bumgarner and Cueto deserve plenty of credit: combined, they have a 2.01 ERA and have notched quality starts in 24 of their 28 tries.
2. The Giants are 9-0 against the Padres
The easiest way to stake out a meaningful lead is to bully the rest of the division. For the most part, the Giants haven't done that -- they're 6-4 against the Dodgers; 5-5 against the Rockies; and 4-4 against the Diamondbacks. Yet the Giants have taken full advantage of playing the last-place Padres, jockeying to a 9-0 record while scoring twice as many runs against the Friars (42) as they've allowed (21). For comparison, the Dodgers, some six-plus games back now, are just 5-4 against the Padres.
3. The Giants are 16-7 in games decided by one run
A team's record in one-run games is always ripe for narratives. Believe it or not, the Giants have just the third-best winning percentage in the majors in one-run games, behind the Rangers (because baseball is poetic) and ... the Phillies (because baseball is also weird). There's probably some luck baked in here, but the Giants do have a few things working in their favor, like their shutdown starters (San Francisco leads the majors with five complete games) and Bruce Bochy -- otherwise known as the most obsessive bullpen manager in baseball today.
Of course, whether it's chance, talent, or some of each, the Giants just hope their recipe for winning continues to work as the summer turns to fall and the stakes continue to rise.