The San Francisco Giants have surprised many by sitting in first place in the National League West for most of the season. The franchise that won three World Series titles from 2010 to 2014 seemingly had gone into a rebuild mode, but 2021 has changed that perception.
Now, with nine games remaining, the Giants are one game ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers with a chance to solidify their hold on first when they open a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies on Friday night in Denver.
San Francisco will give the ball to left-hander Alex Wood (10-4, 3.99 ERA), while Colorado’s Peter Lambert will make his first start in more than two years.
The Giants (99-54) are coming off a 7-6, 10-inning road loss to the San Diego Padres on Thursday.
Wood was out for three weeks after contracting the coronavirus before returning Saturday to face the Atlanta Diamondbacks. He pitched just three innings, but he allowed no hits and no walks. It was a good sign for a Giants rotation that has been dealing with injuries and illness.
“So now we’ve got a healthier, productive, efficient rotation happening,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Whereas before we were really having to depend on two bullpen games a week, and that can be taxing.”
Wood gives San Francisco an experienced pitcher going into the playoffs. He helped Los Angeles win it all last year, giving up just one run in 6 2/3 innings over four postseason appearances.
“I think the big boost is having Alex back in our rotation,” Kapler said. “Really important piece of our future, but also right this minute. So really glad to have him back.”
Wood has faced Colorado 18 times in his career, including 15 starts. In those outings he is 6-3 with a 5.73 ERA. This year, he is 2-0 with a 3.06 ERA in three starts vs. the Rockies.
Lambert won his first two major league starts back in 2019, yielding two runs in 12 innings. He finished 3-7 with a 7.25 ERA in 19 starts that season, but he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since.
He underwent Tommy John surgery last season and has slowly worked his way back to the majors.
“It’s been a long road back, for sure,” Lambert said Wednesday afternoon. “I haven’t pitched in the majors since 2019. That’s a long, long time.”
His journey back to the majors took a huge step when he pitched two scoreless innings for Class-A Spokane on Aug. 18 in his first rehab outing. Lambert made a total of seven rehab appearances through three levels, posting a 3.94 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP over 16 innings.
He now gets to face a Giants team that has the best record in the majors and swept a three-game series at Coors Field earlier this month.
“This is really the best-case scenario, to get few (major league) starts before the end of the year,” Lambert said. “This is what we were shooting for when this first happened.”
Lambert faced San Francisco twice in 2019 but didn’t get a decision in either start. He went six innings in both outings and yielded a total of six runs on 12 hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.
–Field Level Media