The 2013 season opening schedule for the World Champion San Francisco Giants looked like it was put together during a blind tasting of Walmart brand vodkas.
That might explain why the winners of the 2012 World Series, a) opened on the road in Los Angeles (I suppose because Modesto doesn't have an MLB team); b) were almost immediately sent on another road trip, this time to the frozen north (Chicago and Milwaukee); and, c) have an early stretch of 19 games and one off day.
Welcome to the top of the MLB heap. Now pick up your gear and walk through the snow to the visiting dugout.
The good news is the Giants converted their first 13 games into a 9-4 record thanks in large part to being on the right side of 6 games decided by 2 runs or less and throwing three shutouts at, variously, the Dodgers, the Cardinals, and the Rockies.
As the ancient cliche goes, great teams are made in large part by dominating lesser teams throughout a given season. Play the real good teams head-to-head and hope for the best, but pound the bad teams to pad your win column.
There are few teams in the game worse than the Chicago Cubs (61-101 in 2012) and the Colorado Rockies (64-98 in 2012). In fact, I'll go out on a limb and openly identify the Houston Astros as the only team worse than the Rockies and Cubs. (Although the Miami Marlins are on a mission to make the Cubs look good.)
San Francisco played 7 of their first 13 games against Chicago and Colorado and came out the other end of those contests 6-1. Put a check next to "old baseball cliche".
They got shut out by Clayton Kershaw in the season opener in LA then proceeded to teach the Dodgers the Giants Way in the final two games of the 3 game set. Put a check by next to "must beat the Dodgers".
That made losing two of three at home to the St. Louis Cardinals palatable. Especially considering Barry Zito's brilliant 1-0 home opener win-- Zito went 7 scoreless innings giving up 3 hits and 3 walks with four strike-outs.
Three other highlights at the start of the 2013 season should be noted:
> Madison Bumgarner's dominating win in LA-- 8 scoreless innings pitched, 2 hits, no walks and 6 SOs;
> Hunter Pence in the batter's box at top of the 9th inning in Chicago. Giants down 7-6, with two outs and Pence down two strikes. Pence then hit a home run to tie the game, which the Giants went on to win in the 10th 10-7;
> rookie Nick Noonan's two-run single in the 6th inning of the same game against the Cubs that gave San Francisco its first lead of the day.
As always, "runs produced" will be the #1 critical measure of this team throughout the season. San Francisco put up a nice two week offensive burst with 61 runs scored, placing them the middle of the NL pack at 7th overall.
The question will be, can the Giants average at least 4.5 runs per game to keep their dominating pitching in play. In the first 13 games of the season they're averaging 4.69 runs per game; in 2012 San Francisco averaged 4.43 runs per game.
Somewhere in between those numbers lies a very important category: Just Enough to Win.