By: Jake Kucheck
Not so long ago, I was fairly certain that Matt Cain had ceased being effective as a starting pitcher, given his proclivity for throwing fifth inning meatballs and giving up lots of runs in the process. The same could be said for Jake Peavy, although expectations for Peavy are not now and were never as high as they are/were for Cain. This meant that by the time the Giants got back to Madison Bumgarner in the rotation, there would be all kinds of pressure on him to go deep into games (and, given that he is Bumgarner, he likely put some pressure on himself to go deep at the dish as well).
In the series against the Diamondbacks, Cueto went 7, and Samardzija went 8, resting the bullpen for the inevitable Peavy/Cain blowups in games 3 and 4. Then, somehow, Peavy went 6, and Cain went 7, propelling the Giants to a series sweep against a divisional opponent, and some much needed relief of, well, relief pitching. It also meant that Bumgarner might not feel as much pressure to go deep in his series opener against the Padres, but then again I’d imagine Bumgarner does not much care if he is supposed to pitch 6, 9 or 14 innings. Bumgarner promptly went the full 9 giving up only a solo HR to Matt Kemp, while striking out ten and walking zero, followed by Cueto going 9 as well, striking out two fewer and walking two more.
While Samardzija didn’t quite go the distance to pull off the third consecutive complete game, he did pitch well enough to secure another Giants win, and the first 7 game sweep of a road trip for the Giants since 1913, when 3 of those games were won by Christy Mathewson. Yeah.
This run of outstanding pitching has allowed the bullpen to rest up, and also hid some not so great offensive output. During the 7 game road win streak, the Giants scored 5 runs only twice, but allowed more than 2 runs only once (and that was in relative 5-3 barnburner in a Peavy start).
Pitching and hitting alike will be put to the test this weekend, with the world beating Cubs coming to town for a three game set. The festivities begin tonight with a seemingly impossible match-up of Jakes, Chicago’s defending Cy Young Arrieta facing off against San Francisco’s Peavy. Things don’t get any better on Saturday, with Matt Cain trying to build on his last start at Arizona against Cubs superb southpaw Jon Lester. The series finale will give the Giants the best chance to win, with Bumgarner taking on Kyle Hendricks in the Sunday night game, and giving a locked in Bumgarner another opportunity to show his many talents on a national stage.