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June 29, 2012

What You Need to Know

Friday, June 29

by Daniel Rathman

The Thursday Takeaway
Sixteen days ago, Matt Cain found his way into the Giants’ record books by throwing the first perfect game in team history. Now, his four rotation colleagues—Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner—have joined him by spearheading the team’s first-ever of run four consecutive shutouts.

The Giants’ 5-0 victory over the Reds last night marked their seventh win in 10 games, and it came on the heels of a three-game blanking of the rival Dodgers that left the teams tied atop the division. Combined with the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Mets on Thursday, it put San Francisco alone atop the NL West for the first time this season.

Bumgarner was the star of the series opener, tossing a one-hitter for his first career complete game and shutout in 68 starts. It was the fourth time a Giants pitcher has allowed one hit or fewer in an outing this season, the highest total by any team since the 1999 Reds, who also had four. And it was sweet revenge for Bumgarner, who had been shelled in his three previous trips to the mound against Cincinnati, to the tune of 16 runs (13 earned) in 13 2/3 innings. 

The four-game surge has lifted the Giants to 44-33, the second-best record in the senior circuit. But with three more games against the Reds, followed by three against the NL’s best team in the nation’s capital, Bruce Bochy’s squad will need to stay hot to maintain its first-place standing into the All-Star Break.

What to Watch for This Weekend

  • Nothing kicks off a weekend on a better note than a duel between two of the league’s best and hardest-throwing starters. Justin Verlander meets David Price in the second game of a four-game set at the Trop, as the Rays—who are now tied for third in the AL East with the Red Sox—look to snap a four-game skid (Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET).
  • The Nationals and Braves tangle in Atlanta as the most challenging part of both teams’ schedules winds down. Fredi Gonzalez’s team has had it particularly tough, playing 42 consecutive games against winning teams before losing, 3-2, to the 37-37 Diamondbacks last night. Jason Heyward went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts on Thursday to snap a 12-game hitting streak, but the right fielder has two homers in his past four games and is enjoying the best month of his career (Friday, 7:35 p.m. ET).
  • Speaking of hot-hitting outfielders, Dexter Fowler went 3-for-6 last night, helping the Rockies to an 11-10, extra-inning Coors Field special over the Nationals. Fowler had at least two hits in each game of the four-game series, and he has raised his average 30 points over the past week to .292. The 26-year-old is just a .221/.308/.318 hitter in 53 career games versus the Padres, who come to town for a three-game set that begins tonight (Friday, 8:10 p.m. ET). And, if you missed it, be sure to check out Geoff Young's take on Fowler's surge from earlier in the week.
  • The AL Central-leading White Sox continue their four-game series against the AL East-leading Yankees, after taking the opener, 4-3, behind Dayan Viciedo’s game-winning home run. Now 22-14 away from the Windy City, Robin Ventura’s squad owns the second-best road record in baseball, and it could overtake the 23-14 Yanks in this series if Jake Peavy finds a way to beat them on Saturday afternoon. Peavy has at least one win against 25 of the 28 teams he has faced during his major-league career, but he has taken the loss in each of his three starts against the Yankees (Saturday, 1:05 p.m. ET).
  • Last week, CC Sabathia and R.A. Dickey had their turn on the Sunday Night Baseball stage. This week, it’s Dillon Gee and Clayton Kershaw, as the southpaw tries to find a way for the Dodgers to win a game without scoring a run. Now in second place behind the Giants in the NL West, Don Mattingly’s team is struggling to stay afloat with 10 games left before the All-Star Break and Matt Kemp’s return to the lineup. Los Angeles is just 5-6 in Kershaw’s last 11 starts (Sunday, 8:00 p.m. ET).

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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