SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants woke up Sunday looking for a sweep. By the end of the afternoon they were just grateful that Evan Longoria poked a late single into left field.
Avoiding a no-hitter isn't exactly the way you want to send yourself off on the road, but that was the reality of the final innings of a 10-game homestand. With a 4-0 loss, the Giants finished an even 5-5. That's not quite what you want before a three-city trip, but a good series with the Rockies at least kept the team from heading to Washington D.C. already sort of buried.
The team is four out in the NL West, but just two behind the Dodgers, who had their own issues last week, and two and a half ahead of the reeling Rockies.
Before a long trip, here are five things we learned from that 5-5 stretch ...
The Bullpen Isn't Just Good, It's Deep
On Sunday, Derek Holland was followed by the last three guys in the 'pen, and they got a scoreless streak to 20 innings for Giants relievers. The group as a whole has a 1.77 ERA, and the three guys who won jobs in spring training are off to a hot start.
With a perfect frame Sunday, Travis Bergen has a 1.69 ERA and has allowed just two baserunners in seven appearances. The rookie left-hander will visit Toronto next week, giving the Blue Jays a look at a reliever they let get away in the Rule 5 Draft.
Speaking of guys who got away, how did the Nationals let Trevor Gott go for nothing but cash considerations? The 26-year-old sits 95-96 mph and has 11 strikeouts in 9 2/3 strong innings. Veteran Nick Vincent has always put up solid numbers, and he has a 2.61 ERA in seven appearances.
A New Slugger
Kevin Pillar had a hit in eight of the 10 games on the homestand, although he strangely never had more than one hit in a game. Still, he's doing damage. Pillar already leads the Giants in RBI with 12 and he hit four homers last week.
Pillar doesn't have a walk yet and doesn't hit for a high average, so the overall numbers may not be pretty at the end of the year. But this lineup desperately needed someone who could swing close games, and Pillar is going up there looking to drive in runs at every opportunity. He'll see his longtime teammates next week in Toronto.
Buster Posey hit a couple balls on the screws early on the homestand and looked like he was breaking through. But the run he drove in Saturday remains his only RBI, and he'll take a .586 OPS into the second trip of the year.
Posey still is not driving the ball and is lunging for more pitches than usual, striking out at nearly double his career rate. With a different roster, Bruce Bochy might be forced to start thinking about where to slot Posey in the lineup. But the rest of the core isn't really hitting, either, so the Giants will continue to wait and hope that Posey finds his form.
The good news is that he has looked 100 percent healthy defensively. His throwing is as accurate as ever, and he hasn't had a passed ball or wild pitch yet.
The Old Melancon?
It hasn't looked particularly dominant, but Mark Melancon has a 0.00 ERA through the middle of April, and that's a hell of an improvement from the previous two seasons. Melancon's line drive rate is down 13 percent and his groundball rate is up 12 percent, and that's a path to success when he can't quite pile up strikeouts as he used to.
A year after opponents hit .337 on Melancon's cutter, they're just 2-for-11 when putting the ball in play, and his velocity is up about .5 miles per hour. It's a very small sample, but these are positive signs.
Pablo Sandoval has five hits as a pinch-hitter, four of which have been doubles, and there's no denying the spark he can bring to the team. Sandoval hasn't seen much time in the starting lineup with so many lefties lined up against the Giants, but that'll even out a bit now that the Giants are getting away from NL West play, and it'll be interesting to see if he takes a few more starts from Longoria, who has struggled to get going.
Or, with Gerardo Parra off to a slow start, will Brandon Belt get more time in left, allowing Sandoval to start at first?
The Giants are averaging 2.76 runs per game. At some point, perhaps on this trip, they'll need to seriously start shaking things up.