Overshadowed again in a loaded National League, the San Francisco Giants have taken control of their division with a run that feels awfully familiar.
San Francisco beat Tampa Bay 5-1 on Sunday for its eighth consecutive victory, and the Giants lead the NL West by 6 1/2 games. They’ve won the World Series in each of the past three even-numbered years, and if they keep playing like this, they’ll have every opportunity to do it again.
“It’s all about pitching, defense and timely hitting,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s a pretty simple game really, and that’s what’s important for us.”
The Giants haven’t quite kept up with the torrid pace set by the Chicago Cubs, and they don’t really have star power to match the Bryce Harper-led Washington Nationals, but San Francisco is a major league-best 27-8 since May 11, the day the Giants began an earlier eight-game winning streak.
San Francisco doesn’t have anybody in the NL’s top ten in batting, runs, RBIs or home runs, but the Giants weren’t necessarily the favorites when they won their last three World Series titles either. What San Francisco does have is two outstanding starting pitchers at the top of the rotation — Madison Bumgarner is 8-2 with a 1.91 ERA, and Johnny Cueto is 10-1 with a 2.10 ERA.
“When you get on a run like this, usually the pitching is keeping you in the game,” Bochy said.
As for the offense, Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence and Buster Posey have provided enough production to lift the Giants to the second-best record in the NL, behind only Chicago.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, in second place in the NL West, have enough talent to mount a serious challenge during the second half of the season, but the Giants have opened up some breathing room.
And if San Francisco makes it to the postseason, well, just remember what year it is.
Here are a few other developments from around baseball:
KEEPING THE PRESSURE ON
Kansas City has had its share of injury problems this year, and now the Royals are without suspended pitcher Yordano Ventura. But nothing seems to faze the defending World Series champions, who have won eight of their last nine after taking three of four from Detroit.
In Saturday’s 16-5 win over the Tigers, Kansas City went 14 of 25 with runners in scoring position. That was with a lineup that included Whit Merrifield, Brett Eibner and Cheslor Cuthbert — not exactly the same group that rolled through the postseason last year.
The Royals trail first-place Cleveland by a half-game in the AL Central.
When the Chicago White Sox designated Jimmy Rollins for assignment earlier this month, they also brought up top prospect Tim Anderson from the minors. The early returns on Anderson are mixed: He’s hitting .282 with four doubles in 39 at-bats, but he’s struck out 11 times with no walks. He’ll be someone to keep an eye on among the middle-infield options in the American League.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Michael Saunders hit three home runs for Toronto in a 13-3 win over Baltimore on Friday night. Saunders drove in eight runs, and his performance was symbolic of his team’s power-hitting depth, since it came hours after the Blue Jays put outfielder Jose Bautista on the disabled list.
Saunders now has 15 home runs on the season, one of four Toronto players with at least a dozen.