Giants aim to keep hot streak going

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LATE GAME

Thursday's Giants-Mets game ended too late to be included in Friday's edition of The Press Democrat.

DENVER — Two weeks ago, the Giants had no business looking at the National League wild-card standings.

With less than two weeks until the July 31 trade deadline, the Giants’ front office now has every reason to evaluate where the team stands in a playoff race that’s beginning to take shape.

After winning 11 of their last 13 games, the Giants have hopped over four teams in the wild-card race, gained four games in the standings and emerged as one of the most complete teams in the NL.

What will it take for the Giants to keep this hot streak going and become a legitimate playoff contender over the next two months?

The Giants have scored the most runs, hit the most home runs and posted the highest batting average of any team in the month of July. The pitching staff owns a 3.61 ERA in its last 12 games and has racked up the fifth-most strikeouts in the league during that span.

Do the Giants have a better chance of sustaining their strong pitching or elite offense?

“I’d like to see both of them, but to score that many runs, that’s going to be hard to keep doing,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “With that said, it’s being more consistent than we were in the first half offensively.”

You might not be able to expect the Giants to score in the double digits three times a week for the rest of the season, but this isn’t the same offense that posted a .219 batting average in April and a .227 mark in May.

How unrealistic is it to expect this hot streak at the plate to continue? The Giants have already scored 96 runs this month, their most in a 12-game stretch since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958.

“That’s hard to keep up. I don’t know what team could keep up with that,” Bochy said.

Even if the Giants’ offense regresses, fans should be encouraged by the performances of veterans who have a better chance of maintaining their success.

Shortstop Brandon Crawford has raised his average 17 points and raised his OPS 72 points since July 1. With five multi-hit games in his last eight starts, catcher Buster Posey has assumed the team lead in average at .263 and given his OPS a 23-point bump.

Both veterans are still hitting well below their career averages, so it’s not out of the question to expect Crawford and Posey’s numbers to continue climbing.

The stunning numbers left fielder Alex Dickerson has posted (.400 average, 1.254) aren’t sustainable, but the Giants are confident in his ability to hit for both average and power as long as he stays healthy.

On the pitching side, a slew of trades may lead to the downfall of the team’s bullpen, but as long as the unit remains intact, the quartet of Will Smith, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and Reyes Moronta are as fearsome of a foursome as any in baseball.

Having their rotation replicate its recent success could wind up being the greatest challenge for a club that owns the seventh-best ERA (4.00) since June 1.

Rookies Shaun Anderson and Tyler Beede have combined for eight quality starts since May 30, but both are on track to surpass their previous career highs in innings for a season.

Right-hander Jeff Samardzija has quietly positioned himself as an early Pitcher of the Month candidate with three quality starts and a 1.66 ERA in July, but in a sport where balls are flying out of stadiums at a record rate, Samardzija must limit the amount of home runs he surrenders.

Madison Bumgarner has been solid, but if the Giants don’t win enough games over the next 12 days, it is likely he’ll find himself pitching for a different club after Aug. 1.

Losing Bumgarner may not completely crush the Giants’ chances of securing a wild-card berth, but it would make the task much more difficult.

Much will depend on what transpires at the trade deadline.

LATE GAME

Thursday's Giants-Mets game ended too late to be included in Friday's edition of The Press Democrat.

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