Opposite dugout: Injury-plagued Giants still in NL West hunt

giants-logo.pngManager: Bruce Bochy (12th season)

Record: 31-31

Last 10 games: 6-4

Who to watch: C Buster Posey (.303/.370/.443),1B Pablo Sandoval (.282/.330/.447), SS Brandon Crawford (.324, 27 RBIs), 3B Evan Longoria (31 RBIs), RF Andrew McCutchen (18 doubles, 27 RBIs), RHP Hunter Strickland (12 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: 2-1

Pitching probables:

June 8: LHP Andrew Suárez (2-4) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-5), 7:05 p.m., MASN
June 9: RHP Dereck Rodríguez (1-0) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-2), 12:05 p.m., MASN
June 10: LHP Derek Holland (3-6) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (10-1), 4:05 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Giants:

The Giants have held their own in a National League West that is a long way from being decided. Even the basement-dwelling Padres are within striking distance of first. Now reinforcements have arrived, and the Giants have won six of their last seven games. But just as their erstwhile closer, second baseman, longtime outfielder and lefty ace Madison Bumgarner have all come off injuries, another starting pitcher has gone onto the disabled list and an emergency appendectomy has taken their top slugger away for an estimated three weeks.

First baseman Brandon Belt had hit at a .340 clip over the second half of May and was leading the Giants in home runs and RBIs. On June 1 he came out of a game against the Phillies after the second inning, and went under the knife that night. Off-and-on San Francisco fixture Pablo Sandoval has filled in ably, hitting .348 with two homers in the first week of June. Veteran outfielder Hunter Pence had been out since mid-April with a thumb sprain, and before that had been struggling at the plate. Now in his 12th big league season, the 35-year-old Pence has been used mostly as a pinch-hitter since he came off the disabled list last weekend. Second baseman Joe Panik likewise got sidelined with a bum thumb. He's hit .273 with an on-base percentage of .407 since his June 1 return to action. Free agent acquisitions Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen are producing. Longoria has tied Belt for the club lead in RBIs with 31, and his 10 home runs put Longoria just one behind Belt's team-leading total. McCutchen has 18 doubles so far this season - two on Wednesday alone - and the right fielder leads the Giants in stolen bases with four. Shortstop Brandon Crawford is on a seven-game hit streak that has brought his average to .324. Face of the franchise Buster Posey is hitting .303 and is right behind McCutchen and Crawford with 24 RBIs.

Andrew Suárez gets the start for the Giants in tonight's series opener. The 25-year-old lefty has endured a few rocky outings in his rookie season, but has gotten through five innings in six of his eight starts. His last was his best so far, as he shut out the Phillies on June 2 while giving up just three hits over seven innings, striking out five and walking none. With Jeff Samardzija on the disabled list with shoulder problems (not to mention the elbow sprain that has sidelined Johnny Cueto since early May), the Giants have turned to rookie righty Dereck Rodríguez. If he looks familiar when he takes the mound for Saturday's matinee, there's a good reason: His father is Hall of Famer and one-time Nationals catcher Iván Rodríguez. The younger Rodríguez, whose fastball reaches 94 mph, has appeared in just two games for the Giants. But so far, so good. In his only start - June 3 against the Phillies - he pitched six innings for a win, giving up one run on five hits while walking two and striking out six. Southpaw Derek Holland starts Sunday's finale. In his first year with the Giants, Holland - who spent last year with the White Sox after eight with the Rangers - has taken a few tough-luck losses but has often struggled to keep opponents off the scoreboard. He struck out five and gave up just a couple of runs Monday in his most recent start, but came out for a pinch hitter in the home half of the fourth as the Giants put up a seven-spot on their way to a 10-3 win over the Diamondbacks.

Former National closer Mark Melancon was on the disabled list with an elbow injury all season until June 1, and has worked just a couple of times since then. Both times he pitched a flawless seventh inning, and Melancon has already notched five strikeouts. Otherwise, the Giants have relied most heavily on Sam Dyson (2.30 ERA), Cory Gearrin (4.94), Reyes Moronta (1.61) and lefty Tony Watson (2.33). Closer Hunter Strickland (2.59) has logged 12 saves in 14 chances, collecting wins after both of his blown saves. He notched a third victory Wednesday, pitching a perfect 10th inning before the Giants beat the Diamondbacks in a walk-off.

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