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MLB Team Report - San Francisco Giants - INSIDE PITCH
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy calls his team lucky.
That is the only way he can explain how a club that lost 22 of its past 32 games somehow managed to remain one game out of the National League West lead at the All-Star break.
"We're not playing good baseball," Bochy admitted on the eve of the much-needed, four-day break. "We're know we're capable. We need to turn this around and get back headed in the right direction."
The Giants believe they have the tools with which to do so, and they should know. Not only did they win two World Series titles in the past four years, but they looked at times like the best team in baseball again in the first 10 weeks of this season, running out to a 42-21 record and leading the division by as much as 9 1/2 games.
It is possible the Giants will be 100 percent healthy to start the second half July 18 in Miami, and that is something they weren't able to say during their early run. Sparkplug second baseman Marco Scutaro didn't return from the disabled list until two days before the break.
Most important, they might get back arguably their most valuable player, center fielder Angel Pagan, for the start of the final 10 1/2-week run to the playoffs. Pagan hasn't played since June 14 because of a bulging disk in his back.
Pagan's back started to hurt during a 5-4 win over the New York Mets on June 7. He did not play the next day, then struggled through six games before being told to take some time off.
Nobody could have predicted at the time he still would be on the sideline a month later, and that the Giants would go 10-22 after that win over the Mets.
A healthy Scutaro. The hopes of a rejuvenated Pagan. The recent return of Tim Lincecum to his Cy Young Award form, and two wild-card spots to fall back upon in case the Los Angeles Dodgers successfully buy themselves a second consecutive division title.
The Giants certainly are optimistic. And why not? They should be well-rested. After all, they basically started their All-Star break about a month earlier than everyone else.
MLB Team Report - San Francisco Giants - NOTES, QUOTES
STREAK: Won one
FIRST-HALF MVP: CF Angel Pagan scored about half as many runs as RF Hunter Pence and drove in less than half as many as LF Michael Morse. However, only two numbers matter when you seek to determine Pagan's value to the Giants: .667 and .455. The former was the Giants' best-in-baseball winning percentage on the day Pagan's back began bothering him. The latter is the Giants' winning percentage since then.
FIRST-HALF-GRADE: B -- The Giants are one game behind the National League West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers at the All-Star break after they finished 2013 a full 16 back of their rivals. On that alone, you could argue they deserve an "A." But this "A" student flunked the midterm exam, not only losing all of a 9 1/2-game lead in the division but also bringing almost the entire NL Central back into the race for the top wild-card spot. Even so, the Giants would be in the playoffs if the postseason started today, and you can't flunk a kid for that.
PIVOTAL POST-BREAK PLAYER: RHP Matt Cain is the man to watch. With RHP Tim Lincecum having returned to his Cy Young Award-winning form in his past four starts, and LHP Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson combining to win 17 games in the first half of the season, the Giants have the potential to pitch their way into the playoffs for the third time in five years. If Cain can win more than two games in the second half, that is. The veteran went just 2-7 in the first half, but he actually pitched a lot better than that. Remarkably, he allowed two or fewer earned runs in nine of his 15 starts, yet he went just 1-3 in those games.
BUY OR SELL: Asked recently if he planned to make a move (or two) before the July 31 trade deadline, Giants GM Brian Sabean said yes ... as soon as he figures out the team's chief need. Three positions are vying for the top spot on that list -- center field (presuming Angel Pagan is unable to shake his back injury), second base (unless Marco Scutaro defies his age and has a pain-free second half) and closer (if Sergio Romo cannot win his old job back). And then there is the old staple -- starting pitching. One problem: The Giants' farm system isn't stocked with the type of talent that is going to have prospective sellers calling.
INJURY STATUS: CF Angel Pagan said he is going to be standing at the plate in Miami when the first pitch of the second half is thrown on July 18. He will travel with the team to Florida, and a decision on whether he is healthy enough to be activated will be made prior to the opener against the Marlins. With Scutaro already back, for the first time this season, the Giants could have their frontline nine in the lineup July 18.
TOP PROSPECT: RHP Kyle Crick is a 21-year-old with far more strikeouts than innings pitched in the minors. You have to know a franchise that gave up far and away its top prospect (RHP Zack Wheeler) for a rental player (OF Carlos Beltran) in a futile attempt to defend its title in 2011 wouldn't hesitate to include a guy who is just 6-4 in Double-A this season in a deal for immediate help.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There are no untouchables in this organization." -- Giants GM Brian Sabean.
MLB Team Report - San Francisco Giants - ROSTER REPORT
--CF Angel Pagan (back strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 15. He received an epidural injection June 18. He ran on the treadmill and hit off the tee June 28 and 29. He was experiencing recurring pain in his back as of July 1, but an exam found he won't need surgery. He received another epidural injection July 3. Pagan has been with the Giants but moved his rehabilitation program to San Francisco's spring training facility in Arizona on July 8 and resumed baseball activities July 9. He is expected to join the Giants in Miami on July 18 for the start of the second half of the season. A decision on whether he is healthy enough to be activated will be made at that time.
RHP Matt Cain
LHP Madison Bumgarner
RHP Tim Hudson
RHP Tim Lincecum
RHP Ryan Vogelsong
RHP Santiago Casilla (closer)
RHP Sergio Romo
LHP Jeremy Affeldt
LHP Javier Lopez
RHP Jean Machi
RHP Juan Gutierrez
RHP Yusmeiro Petit
1B Brandon Belt
2B Marco Scutaro
SS Brandon Crawford
3B Pablo Sandoval
INF Joe Panik
INF Joaquin Arias
INF Ehire Adrianza
LF Michael Morse
LF Tyler Colvin
CF Gregor Blanco
RF Hunter Pence