8:00 PM EST, ESPN – Money Line: San Francisco -255, Run Line: 7.5
On the eve of the All-Star Break, division rivals at opposing ends of the spectrum face off tonight in the Bay Area as the San Francisco Giants host the Arizona Diamondbacks in the final game of a three-game series. As the Giants have vaulted themselves to the top of the Majors, the Diamondbacks (38-51, 5th in NL West) have hardly enjoyed that good fortune, lagging in last place in the National League West. Indeed, Chip Hale’s charges have had a rough go of things of late, losing eleven of their last thirteen games. Eleven games back in the division, this is now a team that after investing heavily in the Offseason, will in all likelihood be interested in what they can unload before the Trade Deadline at the end of the month. Reliever Brad Ziegler was the first to go, as he was traded during Friday Night’s 6-2 defeat at San Francisco, in exchange for a pair of prospects. Surely if they remain on this path, there will be many more transactions to follow. The Pitching Staff has been a real weak link for this ball club, as they rank towards the bottom of the National League in wealth of categories; the Diamondbacks rank thirteenth in ERA (4.77), Runs Allowed (452), Earned Runs Allowed (425), and Bases on Balls (318), while ranking next-to-last in Hits (833). This was not what the franchise envisioned when they pried former Cy Young Zack Grenkie (10-3, 3.62 ERA) away from division rival Los Angeles in Free Agency. However, while Grenkie has been as advertised, landing on the 15-Day Disabled List only serves to shine a brighter light on the struggles of his compatriots. Robbie Ray (4-8, 4.81 ERA) got the nod on Saturday Night, yet didn’t fare very well, lasting just five innings in which he yielded three runs on six hits, including a home run. He did strike out seven Giants, but earned the loss all the same. This of course brings us to Archie Bradley (3-4, 4.81 ERA), who will be heading to the bump for tonight’s series finale. The 23-year old youngster hasn’t earned a positive decision since June 19th, losing his most recent start, an 8-4 defeat to the San Diego Padres. Durability has been a real question with this kid, for he has yet to work longer than six innings in all but one start dating back to April 18th. Against the Padres, the Righthander permitted five runs on six hits, including a pair of home runs. Getting tagged by the long ball has been a pervasive problem, for that particular instance marked the third time that he had allowed multiple homers in the same outing this season. In fact, he’s allowed 1.4 home runs per nine innings this season to go along with 4.3 walks per nine innings, which are a dead giveaways of a young kid that hasn’t learned that fine art of control. You can’t just overpower everyone, even though Bradley does possess a good deal of heat. Racking up sixty strikeouts over fifty-eight innings of work this season, his 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings ranks second in the Rotation, yet his 2.14 Strikeout/Walk Ratio is hardly impressive. Indeed, he could learn a lot from his counterpart tonight.
Meanwhile, it’s an even numbered year, so that must mean that the Giants (56-33, 1st in NL West) are fated to win another World Series. Beginning back in 2010, San Francisco has hoisted the game’s ultimate prize in 2012 and 2014, while missing the postseason completely in the odd numbered seasons during that stretch. Now heading into the All-Star Break and owning the best record in the Majors, it seems as if their destiny again awaits. Saturday’s 4-2 victory helped ease some feeling in the home side’s dugout, as they were able to coax a solid performance from their Bullpen, which heading into that contest has relinquished a league-worst seventeen Blown Saves. With Jake Peavy failing to last past the Fifth Inning, Bochy went in search of quality relief, with the likes of Javier Lopez, George Kontos, Albert Suarez, Josh Osich, Sergio Romeo, and Santiago Casilla shutting down the Diamondbacks over the final 4.2 innings of labor. The cadre of Relievers allowed nary a run on one lone hit, as Suarez earned the victory and Casilla registered his twenty-first Save of the campaign. Winners of seven out of their last nine outings, Bruce Bochy’s charges are taking this seriously, as the celebrated skipper made the decision to move tonight’s starter Madison Bumgarner (9-4, 2.08 ERA) forward in the rotation so that he would pitch ahead of schedule. This tactic will allow the Giants to utilize their ace in both the final game before the All-Star Break and in the first contest afterwards. Bumgarner was selected to pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, but Bochy stepped in and requested that the Lefthander make the commitment to his team rather than the league as a whole. In fact, the Manager set this precedent back in 2014, in which the 26-year old won both starts bookending the Break. Indeed, it’s about winning championships in San Francisco, folks. Tonight’s tilt will also give the hosts an opportunity to do something that they haven’t done enough of over the past month, which is win when Bumgarner starts. Since June 20th, they have lost three out of his past four starts, with the All-Star earning just one positive decision during that span. In his last trip to the bump, he last just six innings, his shortest outing in over two months, despite allowing no runs on four hits, while striking out six and walking just two in a 7-3 defeat to the Colorado Rockies. In fact, Bumgarner has not gotten out of the Sixth Inning in each of his previous three starts. With that said, the artist known affectionately as Mad Bum has had plenty of experience against tonight’s opponent, the Diamondbacks, making a total of twenty-four career starts, compiling an 8-7 record with a solid 2.54 ERA, racking up 126 strikeouts compared to thirty-five walks, with a WHIP of 1.150. This season, Bumgarner has been rather prolific in striking out the opposition, accounting for a team-best 135 strikeouts, including a stellar 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings.