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Sunday, May 4, 2014
Giants winning with pitching/power combo

By Mark Simon

What’s to like about the San Francisco Giants, who are now 20-11 this season after sweeping the Atlanta Braves over the weekend?

The Giants are winning on the strength of one thing that’s to be expected of them-- pitching- and another that’s a bit unexpected-- power. And it’s happening even without contributions from some players you would expect to be major factors.

Pitching
When their game ended on Sunday, the Giants ranked second in the majors in ERA at 2.99, behind only the team they just swept (the Braves are at 2.72).

That the Giants have this record is impressive considering that Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong are a combined 6-8, with the latter three all having ERAs above 4.00.

Bumgarner had been due for a good day and had one on Sunday, allowing one run in six innings, with a season high 19 swings-and-misses against a strikeout-prone Braves lineup.

Tim Hudson has made up for the shortcomings of his teammates as a near-perfect fit, with a 2.17 ERA, 31 strikeouts and only two walks in 45 2/3 innings.

The Giants' bullpen, which gave them three scoreless innings on Sunday, a day in which they didn’t use Sergio Romo, has been fantastic. Their 1.86 ERA ranks second-best in the majors and an 0.94 WHIP rates first.

Power
The Giants rank second in the majors with 41 home runs this season. They’ve now hit 28 in 16 games on the road after getting an unexpected two from shortstop Brandon Crawford in Sunday’s win.

Brandon Belt and Michael Morse have been the ones to spur this surge, combining for 16 home runs, 13 of which have come away from AT&T Park. Morse hit one in each of the first two games in this series before going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts in the series finale.

The Giants have needed those home runs to make up for a .227 road batting average, which ranks 23rd in the majors. They’ve also lacked in situational hitting. They’re hitting .238 with runners in scoring position this season after going 0 for 13 against the Braves in the series.

They’ve done this without much power input from Pablo Sandoval, whose rough start this season has produced only two home runs and a .170 batting average.

Counting on this to continue may be a little dicey. The Giants have ranked 16th and 14th in the National League in home runs in each of the last two seasons.

One player who can help pick things up on the offensive front is catcher Buster Posey, whose bat is starting to come around after a slow start. Posey is 11 for 26 in his last seven games after hitting .224 through April 26.

Posey had struggled early covering the outer half of the plate. He has more hits against those pitches in his last seven games (eight) than he did in his first 22 games this season (seven).

Looking ahead
The Giants have seven more games left on this road trip, with the next three coming in Pittsburgh. They may have to look to a different means of getting things done on the offensive front.

PNC Park hasn’t rated particularly homer-friendly this season. It ranks 25th in the majors by ESPN.com’s Park Factor ranking.