After starting flat, Giants find synchronicity

After starting flat, Giants find synchronicity

PITTSBURGH -- The San Francisco Giants are the Major Leagues' hottest team. Let that mere fact soak in for a while before trying to comprehend it.

Actually, this occurrence is easy to digest. The 33-51 Giants, who still possess the Major Leagues' second-lowest winning percentage (.393) despite winning six consecutive games, are thriving in facets of the game that formerly challenged them.

Which facets? All of them.

San Francisco's renowned pitching has looked pedestrian through much of the season. Entering Monday's off-day preceding a three-game Interleague series at Detroit, the Giants' starters were tied for 10th in the NL with a 4.80 ERA. Their relievers ranked ninth with a 4.25 ERA.

Samardzija's impressive outing

Moreover, Opening Day starter Madison Bumgarner has been sidelined since April 20, when he sustained bruised ribs and a sprained joint in his left (throwing) shoulder in a dirt-bike accident. The four-time All-Star has been limited to four winless starts. Closer Mark Melancon, signed out of free agency to a four-year, $62 million contract, has gone on the disabled list twice and owns a 4.35 ERA. He recently branded his performance as "absolutely terrible."

However, during the winning streak, the rotation has produced four quality starts, while the bullpen has posted a 1.07 ERA. Rangers castoff Sam Dyson has provided encouragement by contributing two saves.

Giants' bullpen dominates

"I don't think we're looking at it as a whole right now," said Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija, referring to the ballclub's range of results, which suddenly have gone from dormant to dominant. "I think we're going more game by game, which is always important."

The offense's improvement cannot be underestimated. The Giants have languished among the Majors' least productive teams in virtually every category -- partly because multiple players have underperformed, partly because playing home games at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park has left the Giants on the outside looking in at baseball's power eruption.

"That has been our biggest issue," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Before the winning streak, the Giants averaged 3.8 runs per game. That figure has soared to 6.3 during these half-dozen games. San Francisco has hit a rousing .365 with runners in scoring position during this span.

Span's four-hit game

Speaking of an impressive span, center fielder and leadoff hitter Denard Span has remained especially productive of late, batting .396 while scoring 12 runs in his last 12 games. Other surging Giants include second baseman Joe Panik (.363 in his last 20 games), and right fielder Hunter Pence (.324 in 19 games). After the Giants' fruitless personnel search, rookie Austin Slater has established himself in left field, batting .318 in 25 games. They've helped complement catcher Buster Posey, the Giants' lone All-Star, whose .339 batting average leads the Majors.

The Giants aren't delusional. They're well aware that they trailed NL West-leading Los Angeles by 22 games entering Monday. However, after the All-Star break, the Giants expect to welcome Bumgarner back to the starting rotation. They'll then play 40 of their final 72 games at home.

"I think there's a confidence and expectation to win," said first baseman Brandon Belt, who leads the Giants with 16 homers and 42 RBIs. "I'm not sure what triggered it, but this is the way we feel we should have been playing the whole time."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.