9/3/2014 2:35 A.M. ET
Giant role reversal: Offense now leads the way
Posey and Co. picking up slack for a pitching staff that led two title runs
By Tracy Ringolsby / MLB.com
DENVER -- The San Francisco Giants have built their recent success -- which includes World Series championships in 2010 and '12 -- around one of the game's most dominant pitching staffs.
So figure this out: Two of their top three starters have been non-entities of late, and their struggling closer is working in a setup role.
Matt Cain was sidelined more than two months ago by bone chips in his right elbow, which required surgery. Tim Lincecum has been in such a funk that he was skipped in the rotation for the second night in a row on Tuesday, in favor of Yusmeiro Petit. And Sergio Romo, who recorded 60 of the Giants' 67 saves from Opening Day 2013 through June 22 of this year, entered Wednesday having had only two opportunities and converted just one in the past 73 days.
Yet the Giants are on fire.
An oft-overlooked offense has become the most explosive in baseball in recent days, and it has been the catalyst for a revival of a franchise that was in a fast fade in the postseason battle in mid-August, but woke up Wednesday not only leading the National League Wild Card race, but sitting only two games back of the NL West-leading Dodgers.
"We've been a tale of two teams," manager Bruce Bochy said after a 12-7 comeback win on Tuesday night at Coors Field during which San Francisco scored 11 unanswered runs in the final four innings.
And Bochy is enjoying the latest version.
A Giants team that dominated the NL West early in the season had fallen into a 21-37 funk that turned a 10-game lead on June 8 into a five-game deficit to the Dodgers by Aug. 15.
Now look at them.
The Giants have a best-in-the-NL record of 12-5 the past 17 days despite all the pitching upheaval, thanks to an offense that has been the best in baseball.
OK, Tuesday's stunning victory -- in which San Francisco overcame a 7-1 deficit after five innings -- was at rally-prone Coors Field, which Bochy admitted "is the beauty of this park."
But this isn't about a one-night blip on the radar.
During their 12-5 surge, the Giants led the Major Leagues with 106 runs scored, a .326 batting average, a .518 slugging percentage and a .368 on-base percentage.
Those numbers explain why San Francisco has been able take a 3 1/2-game lead on Milwaukee, four games on Atlanta and a 5 1/2-game lead on Pittsburgh in the battle for the first of two NL Wild Card spots despite a rotation that ranks ninth in the NL the past 17 days with a 3.73 ERA.
"We know we have to get the offense going and hope the pitchers give us a chance to win," said Bochy. "It changes the whole game. The pitchers know, too, when they have confidence in the offense they don't have that added pressure."
There was reason to doubt for a while.
How bad were things during the 58-game slide in which the Giants lost their grip on the NL West?
"We weren't even winning games when we got quality starts," said Bochy.
Nineteen of San Francisco's 37 losses during that skid, in fact, were in games in which the starting pitcher worked at least six innings and allowed three earned runs or fewer, including 11 games in which the starting pitcher allowed two or fewer runs.
The offense has been making up for lost time. And this is no one-man show.
Buster Posey is on a roll that conjures memories of his 2012 MVP Award-winning season. He homered, doubled twice and drove in four runs on Tuesday night, and he is now hitting .418 since Aug. 16, best in the NL during that time, with 18 RBIs and six home runs, tied with the Cubs' Luis Valbuena for the most in the NL in those 17 days.
And Posey has company. Rookie second baseman Joe Panik is second in the NL during that stretch with a .406 average. Gregor Blanco is fifth at .390, Hunter Pence is sixth at .362 and Pablo Sandoval is 17th at .324.
Then there is rookie Andrew Susac, called up on July 26 when backup catcher Hector Sanchez was sidelined with a concussion. Susac went 2-for-5 with three RBIs and a home run on Tuesday, giving him 13 hits, three home runs and 14 RBIs in his past nine starts, allowing Posey to get a few more starts than normal at first base.
Don't overlook the fact that nine of the past 17 games were played at AT&T Park, where the Giants scored 55 runs and went 8-1 after having gone 30-32 at home to open the season.
"I felt that was crucial," Bochy said of the home-field resurgence. "That's where our trouble has been. You need to feel good about things in your home park."
Right now, though, the Giants are starting to feel pretty good just about anywhere they play.
They have become quite the hit.