It's been a tough week for the San Jose Giants.
They started the week with a key five-game series against the Modesto Nuts, holding onto a slim three-game lead. They split the first four games, and barely lost the rubber game in extra innings. The Giants followed that up by losing the first two games of a three-game set with the rival Stockton Ports, and although they salvaged the last game, San Jose lost their first home series of the year.
Yet with one game left in May, San Jose is holding onto a two-game lead on the Nuts, who are followed by Stockton just one game behind them.
The Giants have just 18 games left in the first half, with the division winner getting a playoff spot. Can they hold on?
Nearly half the games will be big match-ups. Stockton will visit San Jose for a single game on Sunday, June 3, which will be the last meeting between the teams in the first half.
The Giants will then face the powerhouse Lake Elsinore Storm in Southern California later that week. The Storm are at .500, in a three-team tie for second place in the Southern Division, but have been one of the most well-rounded teams in the league, with both a potent offense and good pitching staff.
Finally, the Giants will wrap up the first half against second-place Modesto for three games on June 15-17.
The good news is that when the Giants aren't facing those two teams, they'll face the two bottom teams in the Northern Division. That starts with a home series against the last-place Bakersfield Blaze this weekend, and then seven games split over two series against the Visalia Oaks, who are just two games ahead of Bakersfield for last place in the league.
The Giants will need to take advantage of those teams to stay on top. They have barely been over .500 against the Nuts, winning just six games out of 11. They've won two of the three games they've had against Bakersfield this year, but haven't yet faced the Oaks, or the Storm.
The team has been reeling a bit as of late, with their league-best pitching staff taking some hits. The Stockton Ports scored 23 runs in the first two games of their recent series against the Giants. In the last 15 games, a stretch in which the Giants went 6-9, San Jose gave up 82 runs, averaging nearly five runs a game. The team's ERA overall this season remains a league-best 3.60, but it's a far smaller margin than it had been earlier this season.
The rotation has taken the brunt of the blows, with Joe Martinez allowing eight runs in 2 1/3 innings in his last start. That alone raised his ERA from 2.29 to 3.38.
Paul Oseguera has also had some recent struggles, giving up seven runs in his last two starts, and Gregorio Martinez has given up 14 runs in the last three starts, never going more than 5 1/3 innings in any of them.
The bullpen, however, has been shorn up by the arrival of Sergio Romo, who allowed an inherited runner to come in to blow a save on Tuesday, but picked up a win and has been unscored upon in five games.
Will the rotation get it together long enough to hold on? A significant possibility may have Romo join the rotation, as he did mid-season in Augusta and then went on to have a fantastic season, including throwing the majority of the only no-hitter in the South Atlantic League in 2006. And then, the offense will get a boost soon, too.
Roster Moves: After Tuesday's win, the Giants promoted outfielder Alex Requena. The speedy minor league veteran had the game-winning RBI on Tuesday, and had batting .296 with three doubles and nine runs scored in 19 games in San Jose. His roster spot will be filled by Ben Copeland, who will return from injury and play for the first time since April 23. Copeland had anchored the heart of the San Jose offense before his injury, batting .286 and gathering four doubles, a triple and two home runs in 18 games.Player of the Week: Dave McKae
As the rotation suffered through some tough games, McKae put his stamp on both the job of "Ace" and "Stopper." He broke a four-game San Jose losing streak, including two against the second place Nuts, by holding the Nuts to just two runs in five innings and getting the win. He then ended a three-game losing streak with Tuesday's performance against Stockton, holding the Ports scoreless into the seventh, and the only run coming in with another pitcher on the mound. His 1.93 ERA is team-leading and is fourth in the league (one of the pitchers ahead of him has since been promoted to Double-A).
By The Numbers: 34
Thirty-four is the number of games that Copeland missed with injury. Before Copeland's injury, the team averaged 5.2 runs per game. Since the injury, they've scored a half-run less a game, averaging 4.7 runs per game.
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