And that’s the formula. It took the Giants several games to master it, but there it is, finally: a strong outing from the starter, shutdown relief*, and just enough run support. It’s rather surprising, but six games into the season, this was only the Giants’ second quality start. In fact, this was only their second decent start. Four of the previous five starts — the one exception, of course, being that Barry Zito shutout — were simply terrible:
- Lincecum: 5.1 IP, 5 R
- Bumgarner: 4 IP, 4 R
- Cain: 6 IP, 5 R
- Lincecum: 2.1 IP, 6 R
Of course, “quality start” doesn’t really do this outing justice. Madison Bumgarner had a no-hitter going through 5 innings. In his first go-around against the Rockies lineup, seven of the nine outs he recorded came via the groundout, and one came via the strikeout. Through those first three innings, he faced the minimum. Through the first five innings, he faced the minimum plus one. With one out in the sixth, Tyler Colvin lined a ball to left and in an unsuccessful attempt to preserve the no-hitter, Melky Cabrera dove for it. Colvin ended up with a triple, and eventually scored, but that was the only run that would be surrendered by Bumgarner; and he came right back out in the seventh and retired Cuddyer, Rosario, and Young in order. He only ended up with two strikeouts, which was a bit odd, but the real dominance came in the form of his batted ball distribution: he induced groundout after groundout, with a few infield flies sprinkled in, and the Rockies generally didn’t make much hard contact.
*As for the relief, okay, maybe that wasn’t “shutdown.” That ninth inning was quite an adventure. Three hits, a well-hit liner that — fortunately — was right at Emmanuel Burriss, and a bases-loaded walk. Wilson was clearly injured (apparently it was an ankle tweak), and it seemed foolish to leave him in the game there. The sight of Dave Groeschner nervously pacing back and forth in the dugout is very unsettling. For obvious reasons, it’s incredibly frustrating to watch Wilson struggle through pain and try to stay in the game. Luckily it doesn’t seem all that serious, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Anyway, he eventually got the save.
Meanwhile, the Giants have now scored 33 runs through the first six games; in each of those games, they’ve scored 4+ runs. It might not seem like much, but the Giants’ longest such streak last year was seven games, with their second-longest stretch lasting all of four games.
There are 156 games left in the season. It’s much too early in the year to make any sort of confident assertions, but I’m becoming increasingly sure of one thing: I was wrong about Melky Cabrera. He’s opened the season with a six-game hitting streak, and in four of those six games, he’s collected multiple hits. All the general small sample size caveats notwithstanding, he’s looked excellent at the plate, and we’re not just seeing BABIP luck here. He’s made consistent hard contact, and he’s in great physical shape. So far, it’s looking like his 2011 season was more than just a fluke.
As for Angel Pagan, the outfield acquisition I was enthused about, I’m not all that concerned…at least not yet. He had some pretty good at-bats today (saw 25 pitches in five plate appearances), and one of them resulted in an RBI single on a solid line drive to left. But the best part about his season thus far: 25 plate appearances, two walks, one strikeout. That bodes well for him going forward.
The Giants are 2-4. They’re in last place in the NL West. But the Angels and Red Sox are also in last place in their respective divisions. They’ll begin a three-game series at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates tomorrow. Should be a good way for the Giants to jumpstart their season.