Things have been ... weird for the Giants so far this season. Which is why it makes total sense for a rare rainout to threaten the home opener. Or, terrifying storms. Whatever works.
But seriously: Barry Zito's slinging goose eggs, Tim Lincecum's getting rocked, and the Giants are scoring runs. Heady times indeed. It's refreshing, then, to get back to the comfort of AT&T Park and see the Pittsburgh Pirates on the slate for a three-game stretch.
We won't call these games "must-wins," mainly because it's April, but people always forget that these games count the same as those in September. Anything other than a series victory would be disappointing.
Game 1, Friday 1:35 p.m. PT: Matt Cain (0-0, 7.50 ERA) vs. James McDonald (0-0, 3.00)
Cain, like Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner their first time around, struggled. That's why his ERA is so freaking high. Somehow, he didn't lose the game.
He shouldn't lose this one, however, if he can pitch up to his normal standards: Only two current members of the Pirates roster (Garrett Jones, Casey McGahee) own a batting average above .300 with more than 10 plate appearances against Cain. Pittsburgh's biggest weapon, Andrew McCutchen, struggles against Cain, going just 1/10 when they matchup.
Oh, and there's this: Cain's got a 3.63 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 52 innings against the Pirates over his career. Despite that he is, of course, 1-2 against them.
BUT THIS GIANTS TEAM IS DIFFERENT! OK, sorry. Let's settle down: the Giants are hitting well. And they've got experience against McDonald, who used to pitch for the Dodgers. The folks on the roster who've squared off against James McD own a collective .317/.388/.500 line against him and that includes three at-bats from Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito.
Giants should roll here.
Game 2, Saturday 6:05 p.m. PT: Barry Zito (1-0, 0.00) vs. Charlie Morton (0-0, 0.00)
Of course, the Giants should ... actually, I don't even know about this matchup. Zito's terrifying because everyone who added him in fantasy baseball is going to start him and probably get punished for it, and for whatever random reason I feel like Charlie Morton has a great knuckleballer name. But he is not a knuckleballer. The more you know!
Rod Barajas has 11 hits, four doubles and three home runs against Zito in his career (40 plate appearances), so let's just pencil him in for three runs and hope the Giants can score more. Oh right, McCutchen's 4/9 against Zito and McGahee's 3/8. This could get ugly, unless Zito's performance from the Rockies game is legit.
Angel Pagan kind of owns Morton, going 7/9 against him in his career. And here's the stat that makes us walk away from this game: Zito's faced Morton four times. And walked twice. This is just going to be a weird game.
Game 3, Sunday 1:05 p.m. PT: Ryan Vogelsong (0-0, 0.00) vs. Kevin Correia (0-0, 1.50)
Revenge, they name is Vogey -- Vogelsong was traded to the Pirates forever ago, then came back with the Giants and became good and made the Pirates jealous and angry.
Now he's making his first start of the season, and could serve as a big boost to a rotation that's struggled early on: if Vogelsong can come back and produce in 2012 at 80 percent of his 2011 production, the Giants will be thrilled. That's asking a lot anyway, but it would be nice.
Look, here's the bottom line: the Pirates are trotting out three "meh" starters. McDonald, Morton and Correia combined for a 4.7 WAR in 2011. Tim Lincecum was worth 4.4 alone in 2011. (Of course, no, Lincecum is not pitching against the Pirates. Shut up.)
The Pirates are batting .199/.241/.293 as a team. They are dead last in OPS+ with 51. That is a number relative to an average of 97 and that means they are hitting the ball just -- to quote Charles Barkley -- TURRIBLE.
Sweeping a series is never an easy thing, especially when you're the Giants and things might not be rolling along perfectly, but Bruce Bochy's squad should be able to post enough runs in these three games to make a serious move up the standings. If you don't believe me, just look up the list of teams ahead of the Giants and find the Dodgers.
They're not even hitting the ball well and they're 6-1, sitting up top of the NL
West with the best record in the majors. And that's basically thanks to Matt Kemp having one less RBI (9) and home run (2) than the entire Pirates team (10, 3) combined.