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Brandon Crawford should thank Don Mattingly for his 7-hit night

BCraw

Brandon Crawford had a history-setting night on Monday in Miami.

But more importantly, the Giants won.

Crawford became the sixth player in major league history to collect seven hits in a game when he went 7 for 8 with a double, triple and five singles in an 8-7 win over the Marlins.

Crawford’s seventh hit of the game proved to be the game-winner. He singled home Brandon Belt from second with two out in the top of the 14th. George Kontos made the lead stand up.

Other major leaguers to get seven hits in a single game include:

  • Johnny Burnett of the Cleveland Indians went 9 for 11 with two doubles and seven singles in an 18-inning game on July 10, 1932
  • Wilbert Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles (NL-version) went 7 for 7 with a double and six singles in a nine-inning game on June 10, 1892
  • Rennie Stennett of the Pittsburgh Pirates went 7 for 7 with a two doubles, a triple and four singles in a nine-inning game on Sept. 16, 1975
  • Rocky Colavito of the Detroit Tigers went 7 for 10 with a triple and six singles in a 22-inning game on June 24, 1962
  • Cesar Gutierrez of the Detroit Tigers went 7 for 7 with a double and six singles in a 12-inning game on June 21, 1970.

To put Crawford’s night into perspective, consider …

  • Crawford had more hits by himself Monday than six teams managed.
  • The Giants have played 35 games this season in which they failed to get seven hits as a team.
  • Crawford started the game hitting .265 for the season. He finished the game hitting .278.
  • For his career, Crawford raised his average for .249 to .251.

After driving in the go-ahead run in the 14th, Crawford alertly got thrown out trying to take second to save Hunter Pence from a five-strikeout game.

And because of that, Brandon Crawford — and the Giants — should send Marlins manager Don Mattingly a thank-you card.

In the top of the 14th inning, Angel Pagan hit into a hard-luck double play. Then Brandon Belt walked on four pitches by Dustin McGowan. Buster Posey followed by falling behind 0-2 then working a walk off a tiring McGowan.

That brought up Crawford with two on and two out. And Mattingly brought in Andrew Cashner.

The numbers say Cashner should have pitched around Crawford.

Here’s why.

Brandon Crawford was 8 for 19 in his career against Cashner.

Left-handed hitters were batting .278 against Cashner this season, while righties are hitting .257.

Hunter Pence, the next batter, was 3 for 20 for his career off Cashner.

But more importantly was what happened Monday.

Crawford was 6 for 7 when he came to bat in the 14th. Pence was 1 for 7 with four strikeouts, and looked bad when doing it.

So Mattingly decided to have his right-handed pitcher pitch to a left-handed batter who was 6 for 7 and was hitting .421 for his career off that pitcher instead of pitching to a right-handed hitter who was 1 for 7 and hitting .150 for his career off that pitcher.

And Mattingly had seen Pence’s struggles an inning before.

In the 13th inning, Crawford hit a one-out triple. Pence came up, swung wildly and missed two pitches before making contact and grounding out to a pulled-in infield, forcing Crawford to stay at third. Mattingly then intentionally walked the next two batters to pitch to Madison Bumgarner, who came in as a pinch-hitter. Bumgarner struck out.

So thank you, Don Mattingly.

Are trades that brought Eduardo Nunez, Matt Moore and Will Smith good deals for San Francisco Giants?

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The San Francisco Giants made some big moves in the past few days, adding the likes of Eduardo Nunez, Will Smith and Matt Moore.

So are they deals good for the Giants?

Well, it depends on who you ask, and it also depends on how you rate trades.

If you look at the deals from the perspective of “Did the Giants make their 2016 roster better for the stretch run?” the consensus is these deals are good for the Giants.

Peter Gammons on MLB Network said the moves were “very good” for the Giants.

“Under the radar, I thought they were really good moves,” Gammons said. “First of all, I think Matt Moore (has been) throwing better and better as the season has gone on, coming off Tommy John surgery.  … Pitching in that ballpark (AT&T Park), which is really important, having Buster Posey behind the plate, who builds relationships with pitchers as well as anybody in the game, and it’s a great park to give up fly balls in. So it should be great for him. After (Madison) Bumgarner and (Johnny) Cueto, their starting pitchers had an ERA of almost 5.00, so getting this extra starter, particularly one who can match up, is important.”

Gammons pointed out that Will Smith has not been great this season against left-handed hitters, but added that he’s “battle-worn.”

“I think what’s really important is he just gives Bruce Bochy another way to go in the sixth to the ninth inning,” Gammons said.

Critics also called the addition of Nunez a perfect fit for the Giants, adding some needed pop and speed.

So the players the Giants added make them better.

But if you look at the deals from the standpoint of what they gave up, then the analysis is not so favorable.

Guys who rate prospects didn’t think the Giants did so well.

Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline said for the Brewers to get Phil Bickford for Will Smith was a good trade for the Brewers. But to get Andrew Susac on top was a bonus.

Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline said the Brewers getting Bickford for Smith “boggles my mind.”

But anytime a team makes a trade, the team not only considers the value of the players they are giving up, but also whether the voids left by those players in the system can be filled.

Now if you looked at a consensus of a variety of prospect rankings, Bickford rated as the No. 2 propsect in the Giants’ system. But right with him, tied at No. 2, is Tyler Beede, and Beede is further along than Bickford, pitching in Double-A as opposed to just making the move to High-A ball. Infielder Lucius Fox was the No. 4 prospect. But their top prospect is also an infielder in Christian Arroyo.

Last week, Giants executive vice president Brian Sabean went to Richmond to look presumably at Arroyo and Beede, and many thought it was to decide if the Giants would deal those players.

Instead, it was to decide how close to ready Arroyo and Beede were, so the team could decide to deal other prospects.

With Joe Panik at second, Brandon Crawford at short and Nunez at third through 2017 – then Arroyo in the system to move in at 3B – the Giants felt they were covered well enough to deal Matt Duffy and Fox to Tampa for Moore.

With Beede in the system, as well as others, the Giants felt they could part with Bickford.

And here’s one thing to keep in mind. None of the trades the Giants made this past week will be able to be rated in the ways that the Carlos Beltran/Zack Wheeler deal was or the Mike Leake/Adam Duvall trade.

In both of those deals, the players the Giants got were two-month rentals and eligible for free agency at the end of the season in which they were acquired.

Nunez is under club control through 2017. Moore and Smith are both under club control through 2019.

So these deals not only were made for the stretch run of 2016, but into the future as well.

And that’s why the price for these players were as high as they were.

San Francisco Giants take a turn to the left on wild trade deadline day

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I went into Monday thinking that if the Giants didn’t make a deal at the trade deadline, that wouldn’t be the most terrible thing in the world.

But then things took a turn to the left.

The Giants made the biggest splash on trade deadline day perhaps ever, acquiring two left-handed pitchers – starter Matt Moore from the Rays and reliever Will Smith from the Brewers.

And the price for both was steep. Heading to the Rays is third baseman Matt Duffy, infield prospect Lucious Fox and minor-league pitcher Michael Santos.

Going to Milwaukee is pitcher Phil Bickford, the Giants’ top prospect, and Triple-A catcher Andrew Susac.

So let’s break down these deals.

Who the Giants got?

MATT MOORE: Moore is a 27-year-old left-hander who is 39-28 with 3.88 ERA in six big league seasons. He was an All-Star in 2013 when he went 17-4 with 3.29 ERA. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014 and came back to make 12 starts in 2015, going 3-4 with 5.43 ERA.

This season, he is 7-7 with 4.08 ERA. But in his last six starts since June 29, Moore is 4-2 with a 1.99 ERA.

He has a very friendly contract. He is making $5 million this season and the Giants hold team options of $7 million in 2017, $9 million in 2018 and $10 million in 2019.

WILL SMITH: Smith is also a 27-year-old lefty who has a 3.94 ERA in five big-league seasons. He began his career in 2012 as a starter with the Royals, going 6-9 with 5.32 ERA. After moving the bullpen in 2013, he was traded to the Brewers for the 2014 season. That year, he led the league in appearances with 78. Last year, he went 7-2 with 2.70 ERA.

He had a very Jeremy Affeldt-like start to the 2016 season. During spring training, he was heading to the shower when he stood on one foot to remove his cleat. But the shoe didn’t come off easily – loosen the laces, Will? – and he twisted his knee. That led to arthroscopic surgery, and he didn’t make his 2016 debut until June. He’s been pitching with a knee brace since the surgery.

He is 1-2 with 3.68 ERA and 12 holds this season. But on June 23, he had a 1.93 ERA, then he had an ugly outing, giving up five runs, four earned, without recording an out against the Cubs. With just 22 innings worked this season, that outing caused his ERA to balloon.

But I took a closer looking at that outing, something that sabermetricians often do not do.

In that outing, Smith came into the game with one out and no one on base. He gave up a solid single to right by Miguel Montero. Then Matt Szczur hit a ball sharply to third, which was booted by the third baseman. So instead of an inning-ending double play, there are now runners on first and second. Tommy La Stella followed by hitting a ball – not especially hard – over the first baseman’s head for a double, and one scored. Kris Bryant was walked intentionally, then Anthony Rizzo followed with the double to the right-center field wall, clearing the bases. Again, Rizzo’s ball was not scorched. It went about 270-300 feet, then rolled the rest of the way to the wall, perfectly placed. Smith was pulled, and Rizzo eventually scored the fifth run of the inning.

So if the third baseman turns the double play – as he should have – Smith’s ERA right now would be 1.99.

Over his career, Smith has been able to get lefties out as well as righties, much like Affeldt. But this season, things have been kind of backward. Lefties are hitting .316 against Smith, while righties are .143. However, the OBP split is .333/.288 lefty-righty.

Smith is make $1.475 million this season and is arbitration eligible 2017-2019.

Where do the new guys fit on the roster?

MOORE: He goes into the rotation. Moore last pitched last Wednesday vs. the Dodgers. It would not be a surprise to see Bruce Bochy drop Moore into the rotation right after Johnny Cueto, which would make his Giants debut on Thursday against the Phillies.

Jake Peavy or Matt Cain go to the bullpen as the long reliever/swing man. It’s a role neither has played. Peavy has only made one relief appearance in his career (in 2011). Cain has only made three relief appearances, and two came last season when he was coming back from injury. I would bet it’s Peavy who gets bumped for the rotation. He is a free agent after this season, while Cain is under contract for three more seasons. Maybe Peavy could be moved in a waiver trade.

Look for Albert Suarez to head to Sacramento to make room for Moore on the 25-man roster. No need to clear spot on 40-man as Moore replaces Duffy.

SMITH: He goes into the pen. With Josh Osich on the DL, Smith will fill the role as left-handed set-up man, pitching in the seventh or eighth inning. Matt Reynolds will return to Sacramento. No need to clear spot on 40-man roster, as Smith replaces Susac.

Who did the Giants give up?

MATT DUFFY: Duffy became a more movable piece after the Giants picked up Eduardo Nunez last week. Nunez will be the Giants’ third baseman for the rest of the season. Duffy was runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year in 2014. He was hitting .253 with 4 HR and 21 RBI in 70 games before going on the DL with a strained Achilles in mid-June. Duffy had been hitting well early in his rehab stint in Sacramento. He is not arbitration eligible until after the 2017 season. Nunez is under contract for 2017, then the Giants could possibly turn to Christian Arroyo, their new No. 1 prospect, at 3B.

LUCIUS FOX: A shortstop, Fox signed a $6 million international contract last summer after graduating high school in Florida and moving back to his native Bahamas. At 19, he was hitting .207 with 25 steals in 75 games for low-A Augusta. He was rated as the Giants’ No. 4 prospect by MLB.com before Monday’s trades. But was not rated a top-100 prospect by MLB.com or Baseball America.

MICHAEL SANTOS: The 21-year-old right-hander was rated as the Giants’ No. 24 prospect at the trade. He was 4-2 with 2.91 ERA in 10 starts to low-A Augusta. He missed some time this season after being hit in the head by a line drive.

PHIL BICKFORD: The 21-year-old righthander was the Giants’ No. 1 prospect. He was rated No. 65 prospect overall by MLB.com after not being in the top 100 at the start of the season. The No. 18 overall pick in the 2015 draft, he can 98 mph with his fastball. He was 3-4 with 2.70 ERA with low-A Augusta this season before being promoted to high-A San Jose, where he was 2-2 with 2.73 ERA. He has 105 strikeouts in 93 innings at both levels this season.

ANDREW SUSAC: Drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft after an injury-filled season at Oregon State, Susac made it to the majors in 2014, when he hit .273 with 3 HR and 19 RBI in 35 games. Injuries limited his time in the bigs in 2015, when he hit .218 with 3 HR and 14 RBI in 52 games. Injuries again played a role in Susac falling behind Trevor Brown on the Giants’ depth chart. He was hitting .273 with 8 HR and 36 RBI in 58 games in Triple-A Sacramento. With Buster Posey a fixture at catcher and Trevor Brown playing well as his backup, there was not much room for Susac. Plus Aramis Garcia, currently at high-A San Jose, is now the Giants’ No. 6 prospect.

Hunter Pence returns: San Francisco Giants’ stretch run begins today

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence, center, rallies the crowd in a post-game cheer for the postseason, after the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 9-3 in a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

It’s been a bleak couple of weeks for San Francisco Giants fans.

The Giants are 2-11 since the All-Star break.

In eight of their 13 games since the break, the Giants have failed to score more than two runs.

The depression hit a new low Friday when the Giants had the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth and hit into a triple play.

But help arrives today. Hunter Pence was activated Saturday after almost two months on the disabled list.

So I thought I would share a little perspective with disheartened Giants fans.

Since the last game that Hunter Pence appeared in (on June 2), the Giants have gone 25-22 and are still in first place in the NL West.

If we had told you that back on June 3, would you have taken it?

I would.

Pence is back in the lineup. So is Eduardo Nunez, the infielder acquired in a trade with the Twins on Thursday.

Joe Panik came back on Thursday. The Giants’ lineup is almost whole again. Matt Duffy begins his rehab assignment today.

To make room for Pence on the 25-man roster, Ramiro Pena was designated for assignment.

Giants fans were excited to see what the lineup might look like on Saturday, with Pence and Nunez in it.

Instead, they got another lesson in the value of depth.

Brandon Crawford got a day off to rest a sore hand. Denard Span got the day off with a sore quad.

The lineup will go:

SS Eduardo Nunez
LF Angel Pagan
3B Conor Gillaspie
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
2B Joe Panik
CF Gregor Blanco
P Jake Peavy

Gillaspie in the No. 3 hole is a good indication that when Ehire Adrianza comes off the DL on Tuesday, Mac Williamson will head back to Sacramento. Also, Cory Gearrin started his rehab stint.

So wipe the slate clean. The stretch run to the postseason starts today.

Eduardo Nunez could be the 2016 version of Marco Scutaro for the San Francisco Giants

Rougned Odor, Eduardo Nunez

Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, top, goes up for an overthrow as Minnesota Twins’ Eduardo Nunez (9) slides safely into the bag for a double in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

I was on vacation on July 24, 2012, camping with my family in Lassen National Park.

As my family went to bed, I stayed up late to listen to the San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres 3-2 in walk-off fashion.

The next afternoon, I heard the news. The Dodgers had acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins.

I remember thinking “OK, Giants, you’re move.”

That move came two days later. The Giants had acquired Marco Scutaro.

Marco Scutaro?!?

The Giants had been starting the likes of Gregor Blanco, Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff as the third outfielder. And the Giants counter move to the Dodgers picking up Hanley was to get a veteran infielder seemingly for bench depth?!?

At the time, Pablo Sandoval was on the DL with a hamstring strain, so Scutaro figured to fill in at 3B until the Panda returned. After that, he’d split time at 2B with Ryan Theriot.

Instead, Scutaro became the most valuable Giant in the final two months of the season, hitting .362 in 61 games and their starting second baseman during their run to the 2012 world championship.

NLCS Cardinals Giants Baseball

That thought came to me Thursday when I heard the Giants had acquired infielder Eduardo Nunez.

To be honest, I was not familiar with Nunez. I’m an NL guy, so I don’t know many AL players, particularly those on the Twins.

When I heard the Giants had sent Adalberto Mejia to the Twins for Eduardo Nunez, I wondered if Nunez was a relief pitcher.

When I found out he was an infielder, I was surprised. So were many Giants fans, who began to wonder if perhaps Matt Duffy’s injury were worse than the Giants were saying.

But Duffy is slated to start a rehab assign on Saturday. So why then get Nunez?

Giants GM Bobby Evans said: “As we look at the rest of the season, we just want to have the protection of (Nunez’s) experience — given the time these guys (Joe Panik, Duffy, Hunter Pence) have missed and how much time they may need to have off down the stretch.”

So here is what can expect of Nunez for now.

Yes, Duffy begins a rehab assignment on Saturday. But the Giants have taken a conservative approach with Duffy, so we can expect that rehab stint to last at least a week, maybe more.

Nunez will be the Giants’ starting third baseman for the next week or so. And so long, Conor Gillaspie, who seems the most likely candidate to be DFA’d to make room for Nunez.

After Duffy returns, look for Bruce Bochy to get Nunez into the lineup as often as possible, at as many different spots as possible. He could give Duffy a rest at third. He could give Brandon Crawford an occasional break at short. He could start for Panik at second, particularly against lefties. Nunez is hitting .311 vs. lefties this season and five of his 12 home runs have come against lefties even though he’s had a third as many plate appearances against lefties as righties.

Nunez is hitting .296 with 12 home runs, 47 RBI and 27 stolen bases. He was the Twins’ representative at the All-Star Game. His home run total matches the Giants’ team leader (Buster Posey). His stolen base total is more than the top three Giants combined (Angel Pagan, Denard Span and Duffy).

Nunez has played 51 games at shortstop this season, 33 at third base and five at second. In his career, he’s played 29 games in the outfield. He is also under team control through 2017.

The Giants may have picked up their super utility player they have lacked for many years.

To get Nunez, the Giants  gave up Mejia,who was rated by MLB.com as the Giants’ No. 5 overall prospect and No. 3 pitching prospect.  The 23-year-old is 7-3 with 2.81 ERA in 29 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. He was 4-1 with a 4.20 ERA with Sacramento. Mejia was rated the 91st best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America’s midseason rankings.

The Brewers were said to have been interested in Mejia, which may tell us about the price the Brewers were looking for in exchange for relievers Will Smith or Jeremy Jeffress. So then we can assume the Brewers were looking for Mejia AND someone else to give up Smith or Jeffress.

The Nunez trade could be an indicator of the steep price teams are asking right now for pitching, at least right now. The trade deadline is still a couple of days away. If the Giants make a deal for relief help, it likely won’t happen until right up against the deadline.

Nunez is slated to arrive today. Gillaspie will be gone. Hunter Pence is supposed to be activated Saturday. Jarrett Parker will head to Sacramento. Ehire Adrianza will be activated Tuesday. Ramiro Pena will be DFAd.

The Giants will hope at least two of the four DFA candidates (Tejada, Green, Gillaspie, Pena) will clear waivers and accept an assignment to Sacramento. And they still have Kelby Tomlinson at Triple-A.

I’m not entirely sure who leaves the 25-man roster when Duffy gets activated. Provided no one else goes on the DL before then, Mac Williamson could go back to Triple-A for a couple weeks before returning when rosters expand.

Eduardo Nunez’s acquisition surprised many Giants fans. But he may just be the 2016 Marco Scutaro. And with the return of Panik, Pence, Adrianza and Duffy, may help provide the offensive spark the Giants have been so badly missing since the All-Star break.

People say pitching wins championships. Maybe so. But depth also wins championships.

And each of the Giants’ three title runs including key contributions from unexpected sources — Cody Ross, the 2010 NLCS MVP; Scutaro, the 2012 NLCS MVP; Travis Ishikawa, clinching home run in the 2014 NLCS.

We can only hope Nunez is that surprise hero of 2016.

Joe Panik expected to be in San Francisco Giants’ lineup tonight; Hunter Pence this weekend

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Things have been bleak lately for the San Francisco Giants, but it appears — FINALLY — help is on the way.

Giants general manager Bobby Evans told KNBR radio this morning thatJoe  Panik likely will be in the starting lineup TONIGHT when the Giants open a four-game series against the Washington Nationals.

Panik has been out since June 28 with a concussion after being hit in the helmet with pitch. He started a rehab assignment on July 19, played two games, then sat after he “didn’t feel right.” He got cleared to play again, and has played the past two nights in Sacramento, including a full nine innings on Wednesday when he went 2 for 4.

Evans also said that Hunter Pence likely will be activated some time this weekend. Pence has been on the DL since early June after having hamstring surgery. Pence has hit .450 for Sacramento in six games and has homered in each of the past two games.

The next question is: Who will the Giants jettison from the 25-man roster to make room for Panik, then Pence?

Here’s my best guess:

I think it’s Jarrett Parker. Yes, sending down an outfielder to call up an infielder may seem a bit odd, but Parker has options left. Parker likely gets sent down when Pence gets activated anyway, and this will allow the Giants to hang onto other reserves without options like Grant Green, Ramiro Pena or Conor Gillaspie, even if it’s just for a couple of days.

It would leave the Giants with just four outfielders for the next couple of days, until Pence gets the call. But the Giants have done that before, plus Brandon Belt and Green are outfield options in a pinch.

However, when Pence gets activated, next on the chopping block is Green.

Green made some nice contributions when he got called up from Sacramento. But since the All-Star break, he’s 3-for-16 (.188) and made just three starts.

Green would need to clear waivers and accept the assignment to be sent to Triple-A, just as Ruben Tejada was eight days ago. Pena and Gillaspie are in the same boat. Tejada should clear waivers in a couple of days, and could be headed back to Sacramento if he does. So it’s possible they could have Tejada back in the system on the same day they DFA Green.

Oh, and the Giants also have Ehire Adrianza and Matt Duffy on the mend.

Adrianza is about 13 days into his 20-day max minor league rehab stint, meaning the Giants will have to make a decision quickly with him. He’s hitting .368 with three homers on his rehab stint.

If figures Pena goes when Adrianza is ready. Gillaspie is on the block when Duffy is ready. Duffy is slated to start his rehab assignment this weekend.

I just don’t see the Giants sending down Mac Williamson, who has options left. But Bruce Bochy likes his right-handed power bat off the bench, as well he should.

And no one in the bullpen goes anywhere unless the Giants make a trade for more pitching help.

Six positive points to be drawn out of dark road trip of San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants' Mac Williamson connects for an RBI-base hit against the New York Yankees during the twelfth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 23, 2016, in New York. Giants' Trevor Brown scored on the play. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

San Francisco Giants’ Mac Williamson connects for an RBI-base hit against the New York Yankees during the twelfth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 23, 2016, in New York. Giants’ Trevor Brown scored on the play. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Ugh. That was a miserable roadtrip.

The Giants went 1-7 on their return to play from the All-Star break.

There was plenty of blame to go around, even though Brandon Belt was falling on the sword for his teammates.

Belt went 2 for 33 with 17 strikeouts – 17 STRIKEOUTS – during the road trip. After Sunday’s game, Belt said: “I can attribute a lot of these losses we had … to me. I’ve had plenty of chances to drive in runs and didn’t get the job done.”

While that’s true, we can look elsewhere. Brandon Crawford, the team’s RBI leader, didn’t drive in a run on the road trip. As a team, the Giants hit .125 in 72 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

And, of course, the Giants were hoping to get players back from the DL on the road trip. And the only player they actually got back was Matt Cain, and that didn’t go well.

But rather than curse the darkness, I’d rather cast some light in a dark time.

So here are six bright spots we can draw from a dark road trip.

THE GIANTS ARE STILL THREE GAMES UP: Despite a 1-7 road trip, the Giants still lead the Dodgers by three games. And it’s better to be up three than down three. But it’s been almost three weeks since the Giants padded their lead with a win – that came on July 6 when a win over the Rockies pushed their lead from 5 to 6 games. That needs to happen again.

CLAYTON KERSHAW: Kershaw has been out a month with a bad back. He looked like he was ready to return last week. But after his final rehab session, he complained off back pain again. Now he is out indefinitely and surgery may be necessary. At the very least, he’ll be out a little bit longer, and that’s good news for the Giants.

MAC WILLIAMSON: The rookie outfielder may be the only Giants hitter who saw his batting average go up during the road trip. At the All-Star break, Williamson was hitting .209. Williamson reached base in all eight games of the road trip. Williamson was 8 for 18 (.444) with three home runs and seven RBI. His OBP was .500. He’s now hitting .259 for the season. It’s pretty clear when Hunter Pence comes back, Williamson will remain as the coveted right-handed power bench Bruce Bochy so desires on his bench.

HOME FINALY HOME: The Giants are home, where they are 29-17 this season. They start a seven-game homestand with three vs. the Reds and then four vs. Nationals. The Giants have a current four-game win streak at home and have won five of their last six at home and 12 of their last 16.

THE BULLPEN: While the Giants went into the break with the bullpen being the prime area needing improvement. And while Aroldis Chapman ended up going to the Cubs, it’s worth noting the bullpen was actually pretty good on the trip. As a whole, the Giants bullpen was 1-2 with nine walks, 19 strikeouts and a 3.46 ERA over 26 innings on the roadtrip. But remove Albert Suarez’s outing in Boston, and the pen’s ERA drops to 1.96. Remove Santiago Casilla’s balk-off outing in San Diego, and it drops to 1.17. Here is how each reliever breaks down since the break.

breakit

HELP IS ON THE WAY: We’ve been saying this for a while, but help is on the way in the form of rehabbing players. It was hoped Joe Panik would be back last Friday. But then he didn’t feel well after playing Tuesday and Wednesday. Panik got cleared again on concussion protocol and is expected resume his rehab stint later this week. Hunter Pence is 5 for 11 with one home runs and two RBI in four rehab games with the Sacramento RiverCats. He’ll get a day off Monday and resume his rehab stint Tuesday. He could get called up this weekend, or when the Giants head out on the road next week. Ehire Adrianza is hitting .378 (14 for 37) with six home runs and 12 RBI in his rehab stint. Matt Duffy could start a rehab stint later this week. Reliever Cory Gearrin threw a bullpen session in Arizona last week, but has yet to start his rehab stint.

San Francisco Giants’ second-half schedule gets tougher, but help is on the way

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The San Francisco Giants come out of the All-Star Break with the best record in all of baseball at 57-33.

That’s the good news.

And the Giants have done that without Hunter Pence since June 2, without Kelby Tomlinson since June 10, without Matt Duffy since June 21, without Joe Panik since June 29, largely without Matt Cain since May 28 and they just recently got Sergio Romo back after being out since mid-April.

That’s also the good news.

But on the flip side, the Giants have built their fine record on the backs of weak teams.

They have not played a team with a winning record since June 12 — a stretch of 26 games. They have gone 19-7 in those games.

That stretch will continue after the All-Star Break with three games against the Padres — a team the Giants have gone 9-0 against this season.

Then things get a bit tougher.

After the series in San Diego, the Giants will finish the season with 39 games against teams currently above .500, three games against a team currently at .500 (Yankees) and 27 games against sub-.500 teams (the bulk of those coming within the division).

The most challenging stretch of games in the second have is a 19-game stretch beginning Aug. 5 all against teams with winning records. It starts with three in Washington, three in Miami, continues with a 10-game homestand against the Orioles, Pirates and Mets and concludes with a three-game set at Chavez Ravine.

The good news is that the Giants are getting healthy again.

JOE PANIK: Out with concussion symptoms, Panik resumed baseball activities and is expected to begin a rehab assignment this weekend. He could rejoin the Giants next week during their trip to Boston and New York.

KELBY TOMLINSON: The infielder is actually back. But the Giants sent him to Triple-A to find his stroke after being out a month with a thumb injury. Also he had options and the Giants didn’t want to expose their current infielders to waivers. Maintaining depth is important.

HUNTER PENCE: The outfielder is progressing well, and manager Bruce Bochy says he could be back when the Giants play their first post-All-Star Break home game on July 25.

MATT CAIN: Cain made a solid rehab start with Triple-A Sacramento last Friday. And he could make another before rejoining the Giants next week.

CORY GEARRIN: The righty went on the DL July 6 with shoulder fatigue. He should be ready to return when his 15 days are up, which could mean rejoining the Giants during the Yankees series.

MATT DUFFY: Duffy’s timetable is a little less certain. The third baseman experienced soreness in his Achilles, which Bochy termed a “mild setback.” He could resume running on Monday, which may give a better indication of when he might return. It would be surprising if he’s back before August.

The average final record of Giants when one of their pitchers starts All-Star Game: 94-68

Johnny Cueto

San Fransisco Giants’ Johnny Cueto pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Johnny Cueto has picked to star the All-Star Game on Tuesday, and that’s a good harbinger for the San Francisco Giants.

Cueto became the eighth different Giants pitcher to be selected to start the All-Star Game. Juan Marichal started two All-Star Games.

In the previous eight seasons when a Giants pitcher started on the mound in the midsummer classic, the Giants have finished the season with an average record of 94-68.

In three of the last four times a Giants pitcher started the All-Star Game, the Giants went on to win the NL West (1989, 2003, 2012).

The results from Giants starters in All-Star games have ranged from really, really good (from Carl Hubbell’s fanning of five Hall-of-Famers in 1934 to Marichal’s MVP performance in 1965) to not so hot (see Rick Reuschel 1989).

But overall, the results have been good. Giants pitchers starting the All-Star Game have given up six earned runs in 19 inning for a 2.84 ERA.

Here are the individual outings.

hubbell

1934 – Carl Hubbell

At Polo Grounds, New York

3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K

Hubbell struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in succession. The AL All-Stars rallied to win 9-7. The Giants were in first place in the National League by two games. The Giants finished 93-60, two games behind the Cardinals for the pennant.

juan

1965 – Juan Marichal

At Metropolitan Stadium, Minneapolis

3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB 0 K

Marichal left the game with 5-0 lead, helped in part to a leadoff home run from Willie Mays. Jim Maloney of the Reds gave the lead back, but the NL ended up winning 6-5. Marichal was selected the MVP. The Giants were 3.5 off the NL lead at the break. They finished 95-67 in second place.

1967 – Juan Marichal

At Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim

3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 BB

The game ended up going 15 innings before Tony Perez’s home run lift the NL to a 2-1 win. The Giants five games out of first place at the break. They would finish in second place at 91-71.

vida

1978 – Vida Blue

San Diego Stadium, San Diego

3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

Blue spotted the AL a 3-0 lead, but the NL tied it in the bottom of the third. A four-run bottom of the eighth gave the NL a 7-3 win. The Giants held a two-game lead in the NL West at the break. They would finish in third place at 89-73.

RickRush
1989 – Rick Reuschel

At Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim

1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

After being spotted a 2-0 lead, Reuschel gave up back-to-back home runs to Bo Jackson and Wade Boggs to open the game. Jackson’s home run landed in San Dimas. The AL won the game 5-3. The Giants were leading the NL West by two games at the break. They would finish 92-70, win the NL West and eventually the NL pennant.

Jingleheimer

2003 – Jason Schmidt

At U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago

2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K

The NL looked to be on its way to victory until the Dodgers’ Eric Gagne gave up three runs in the bottom of the eighth. The AL won 7-6. Friggin Dodger. The Giants held a five-game lead at the break. They would finish 100-61 and win the NL West.

TimmyJim

2009 – Tim Lincecum

At Busch Stadium, St. Louis

2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

Lincecum opened the game by giving up a single to Ichiro and hitting Derek Jeter. Two runs would score on an error and a groundout. The NL would tie the game, but the AL sealed the 4-3 win with one run in the eighth. The Giants were seven games out of first at the break. They would finish 88-74 and in third place in the NL West.

cainer

2012 – Matt Cain

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City

2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 B, 1 K

The NL All-Stars spotted Cain a 5-0 lead, thanks in large part to a three-run triple by Pablo Sandoval. Melky Cabrera would win MVP honors in an 8-0 NL win. The Giants were a half-game out of first at the break. They would finish 94-68 to win the NL West and eventually the World Series.

On a crazy day, San Francisco Giants’ bullpen strangely restores order

Saturday’s 4-2 victory for the San Francisco Giants over the Arizona Diamondbacks was filled with oddities.

It started in the first inning when Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt hit a foul ball in the stands and a woman tried to catch it with her lunch tray.

As you can assume, it didn’t end well (see above video).

Then in the top of the fourth, Jake Peavy got Jake Lamb to check swing on a pitch. On the appeal, third-base umpire Quinn Wolcott ruled no swing. Peavy was barking at Wolcott when Buster Posey returned the throw to Peavy.

Peavy was not even looking at the throw, which hit the pitcher on the shoulder and dropped right into his glove (see above video).

Posey’s reaction to the play: “It doesn’t look real. It just doesn’t look real.”

He added: “I laughed. It was hard not to.”

Peavy said of Buster: “I’m still waiting for him to do something wrong. It’s been two years now.”

In the bottom of the fourth, Brandon Crawford led off the inning with a pop-up to Lamb, who lost the ball in the sun and it hit him in HIS shoulder and landed for a single (see above video).

Two outs later, Grant Green hit his first home run as a Giant, and the Giants took a 3-2 lead.

In the fifth, Javier Lopez left the dugout to head to the dugout. But he tripped on the top step and fell to the track. Lying on his back for a moment, he got up and acknowledged the crowd of 41,000 (see above video).

When asked if known-clutz Jeremy Affeldt contact Lopez, Lopez said: “Of course I did. He sent me the video. I told him at least I didn’t get hurt.”

Touche, Javy.

Also, in the third inning, Angel Pagan got hit in the head by the throw when he tried to steal second. He was OK.

Manager Bruce Bochy said of Pagan: “He said he’s done some boxing in his days, so he can take a shot.”

DIAMONDBACKS GIANTS BASEBALL

San Francisco Giants’ Angel Pagan is struck by the relay throw intended for Arizona Diamondbacks’ Nick Ahmed as Pagan steals second base during the third inning of baseball game on Saturday, July 9, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

Arizona right fielder Brandon Drury did a faceplant into the bullpen mound in the sixth (see above video).

But then the strangest thing of all happened.

The Giants bullpen saved the day.

Javier Lopez, George Kontos, Albert Suarez, Josh Osich, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla combined on 4 2/3 innings of shutout relief, allowing only one hit to seal the victory.

So go figure.