Don't write off resilient, experienced Giants
HOUSTON -- Tough bunch, these San Francisco Giants. Nothing seems to rattle 'em. The heart of a champion, etc.
"When you have a group of guys that have done it before, you know what you have to do to finish off a season," Giants right-hander Matt Cain said.
Been there, done that.
"The majority of us were here when we won the World Series two years ago," reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. "We were not supposed to be able to do that according to everyone else."
The Giants were easy to write off two weeks ago when they lost Melky Cabrera, the National League's leading hitter, to a 50-game drug suspension.
And then a few days later, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired $250 million worth of contracts in the trade that brought them Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford.
"We're not worried about other teams," center fielder Angel Pagan said. "We've got to worry about ourselves. We know what we have to do. Our business is to compete and win ballgames."
As Affeldt put it, "I think the money is what everyone's stuck on. The Dodgers gained some players, but that's what a good team is going to do. We can't control what they do. We just have to try and win."
For the Dodgers to add a middle-of-the-order bat (Gonzalez) and a former No. 1 starter (Beckett) after already acquiring Shane Victorino and Hanley Ramirez very well could end up deciding the National League West.
At least that's how the narrative played out around the country. But the Giants have their own reality.
"We just focus on what we need to do here," manager Bruce Bochy said.
That's perhaps the greatest tribute to Bochy's leadership and a reminder of the type of people Giants general manager Brian Sabean has assembled.
"I think we're confident," Affeldt said. "I don't think we're necessarily cocky."
The Giants and Dodgers were tied atop the National League West when Cabrera was suspended on Aug. 15. Since then, the Giants have won 11 of 15 games and opened up a 4 1/2-game lead.
"I love the way they've dealt with it," Bochy said of the Cabrera suspension. "You never hear a word about it. There's no point. It's behind us. In this game, you have no choice but to focus forward."
Pagan has become a dynamic presence at the top of the lineup, and the Giants have been a better offensive team -- 4.6 runs per game versus 4.2 -- since losing Cabrera.
They finished a three-game sweep of the Astros Thursday night by rallying from a four-run deficit for an 8-4 victory at Minute Maid Park.
"I feel good with this club," Bochy said. "We know it's going to be a tight race. All the teams in our division are playing well. I just like the way they've handled things to this point. We know how tough it's going to be to get this done."
The Giants are the National League's second-highest-scoring team since the All-Star break, and they're 50-27 in games started by Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong or Cain.
If Tim Lincecum pitches well down the stretch -- and he has been better lately -- the Giants probably won't be caught.
If experience matters, the Giants have that, too. Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Cain, Bumgarner and others were on the team that rallied from four games back to clinch a playoff berth on the last day of the 2010 season.
"We're confident with the group of guys we have," Cain said. "We've been that way since the spring. It's hard to put that together sometimes. All these guys mesh real well. It's just a good, quality group of guys. We know that if we play well, things will turn out right. You have the confidence that if there's a bad couple of days, it's not a big deal. You've been through it before and know you'll come out of it."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.