Return of Pence has Giants clicking
Hunter Pence wasted no time making his presence felt in that batting order, as he went 4-8 with a whopping 5 runs scored to go along with a home run and two RBI. Talk about an explosive couple of welcome back games! Pence's return doesn't just add another premier bat to the lineup, but it also alleviates some of the pressure off some of the other bats, such as Brandon Belt, and it causes a ripple effect all throughout the lineup. Speaking of Belt, he was the only Giant to out-do Hunter Pence at the plate in the Reds' series. The big first baseman finally found that power stroke that he'd been searching for since the season begin, homering three times in the series, which happened to be just his first three home runs of the 2015 season so far. He came into Cinci with a .287/.368/.394 with no homers and just 7 RBI and he left with a .321/.392/.509 line to go with those 3 homers and now 14 RBI. Belt has that ability to get hot and hit home runs in bunches and it looks like he's right in the middle of one of those streaks and I don't think it's any coincidence that his burst over the weekend coincided with the return of the Hunter Pence.
Many wondered how the lineup would shape up when Pence returned and whether or not Angel Pagan would be ousted from the 3-hole. However, although Pagan doesn't hit for as much power as your prototypical 3-hole guy, he's been hovering right around .330 all season long and is one of the more clutch hitters on the team. Now, if Nori Aoki runs into any trouble (May hasn't been as easy on left fielder after a big April) then Pagan could find himself back atop the Giants order at some point, but I think Bochy is really hoping he can continue to solidify that spot. It stretches the Giants order out much more that way and allows for a little more pop at the bottom of the lineup.
So, with Pence now back in the mix, the lineup has rounded into shape a bit the last couple of nights, and seems to be on the upswing. There's still a little bit of concern at the hot corner with Casey Mcgehee still struggling and hitting into double plays like they're going out of style, but they still have another couple of months to figure out how they'll approach the stretch-run at that position. Every other spot on the diamond seems pretty much locked down at the moment though, so outside of a possible upgrade at third base, Brian Sabean's primary focus heading into the summer will likely be on the starting pitching market. They're still waiting on the returns of Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, which could end up negating the need for another starting pitcher, but with Cain's health and the amount of time he's missed, I'm not sure they're expecting much from him, at least for the first half of the season. Peavy, on the other hand, just can't seem to get his back to heal up and keeps having to push back scheduled work, although the hope now is that he'll be ready for a rehab assignment as soon as this weekend and could rejoin the Giants rotation in a couple weeks.
In the meantime, Ryan Vogelsong has been throwing the ball better of late, and Tim Hudson is coming off a dominant outing vs. the Dodgers Tuesday night at AT&T. It hasn't just been the Madison Bumgarner show over the last couple weeks as the Giants have finally started to string together some solid outings and it's no coincidence it has them a season-high three games over .500 and just a couple back of LA in the West. I like the team's momentum right now as they're starting to win games much like they did in the postseason last fall. They aren't necessarily relying on the home run ball as much and seem to have more guys contributing throughout the lineup rather than just the middle and top four or five guys which seemed to be the case at the start of the season.