ST. LOUIS – For several seasons while Angel Pagan oscillated between the disabled list and the active roster, the Giants posted starkly different records with and without him.
They were 306-248 when Pagan was in the lineup during his five seasons, and 123-133 when he wasn’t. Maybe that wasn’t a reflection on Pagan so much as the Giants’ reliance on a stable presence in the leadoff spot. Every team can use a catalyst atop the lineup. It’s particularly important for the Giants, given the close games they play in their ballpark and their need to score without the long ball. When you must string together hits, you can’t have a lineup of station-to-station runners.
You could argue that the Giants’ poor production in the leadoff spot this season has hampered the offense more than any other factor. Their 16 runs scored from the leadoff spot ranks as the fewest in the major leagues.
You also could argue that Denard Span is the new Angel Pagan.
The Giants are 6-1 with Span in the leadoff spot since he returned from the disabled list May 11 because of a sprained right shoulder. In that time, he is 13 for 34 with a double, a triple, two home runs and six RBIs in seven games. He hit a pair of RBI singles in Friday’s 6-5 comeback win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
And yes, he has scored four runs in those eight games. That’s after the Giants received just a dozen runs from the leadoff spot while winning 12 of their first 35 games.
“He’s throwing out great at-bats,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s driving the ball, and sure, it surprised us. He only had a couple games in A-ball (on a rehab assignment).”
Span figures to factor into the remainder of this road trip because the Giants are due to face five right-handers in the remaining six days, with the Cardinals’ Carlos Martinez up next.
Christian Arroyo was out early with bench coach Ron Wotus to work on his positioning while taking throws at third and second. A few times since Arroyo’s promotion, the ball beat a runner to the bag but the rookie wasn’t quick enough with the tag.
Not everyone can have the reflexes of a Javier Baez. But Wotus explained that positioning can be even more important than having quick hands. Young players are often so eager to accept a throw that they catch it in front of the base and have to reach back. And of course, the ball travels faster than the glove can.
It’s clear that the Giants have no hesitation putting a lot of Arroyo’s plate – something they usually try to avoid with younger players. They’ve started him at three infield spots, and they keep throwing him out there even though he’s hitting .179 over his last 11 games.
“He’s had his ups and downs but he’s dealt with it,” Bochy said. “He’s had his 0-fers, and he’s dealt with it as a major leaguer should. … It separates your average players from your good players.”
The next adjustment Arroyo must make: having more consistent at-bats against right-handed pitchers. He’s batting .270 against lefties but just .189 against right-handers.
Not much new on Hunter Pence. He’s hitting off a tee and playing catch but hasn’t tested his hamstring by running yet. Until he does that, there’s no sense guessing about when he’ll rejoin the active roster. He’s eligible on Tuesday.
The Giants took the Cardinals’ slot to take batting practice on the field in the hopes of beating the thunderstorms. Now it looks as if the weather will arrive later Saturday night. Scattered storms should move in after 8 p.m. Central time, or roughly two hours after the first pitch – hopefully long enough so that a delay wouldn’t knock out a starting pitcher.
The Cubs wasted no time postponing their game with Milwaukee today, which will alter their pitching rotation for next week’s series against the Giants at Wrigley Field. The Giants now will get John Lackey instead of Jake Arrieta.
Here are the lineups for the game, which will be broadcast on Fox with Dodgers announcer Joe Davis and color man A.J. Pierzynski on the call.