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Giants' recent roll brings questions for 2nd half

@mi_guardado
July 7, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hours before the Giants played their first-half finale against the Cardinals, manager Bruce Bochy was asked if, given the modest expectations assigned to his club at the beginning of the season, he would have taken a 41-48 mark heading into the All-Star break. “No,” Bochy said firmly.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hours before the Giants played their first-half finale against the Cardinals, manager Bruce Bochy was asked if, given the modest expectations assigned to his club at the beginning of the season, he would have taken a 41-48 mark heading into the All-Star break.

“No,” Bochy said firmly. “I can’t say I would have taken this. I set the bar a lot higher than that, trust me. With the experience that we have here, the resume, the DNA of this club, no. But at the same time, we can show that we are better than what we did this first half. I believe we will.”

The Giants certainly feel they’re starting to trend in the right direction, a belief that was further solidified by a dramatic 1-0 win over the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Oracle Park. St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Evan Longoria crushed a hanging breaking ball out to left field to snap a scoreless tie.

Veteran Jeff Samardzija, aided by a pair of impressive seventh-inning catches from center fielder Kevin Pillar, worked seven shutout innings to best Flaherty and lift the Giants to their seventh win in their last nine games.

Box score

After disappointing over the opening months of the season, the Giants finally appear to be hitting their stride, instilling a newfound sense of optimism and confidence in the clubhouse.

“We’ve been having a lot more fun in the clubhouse, and I think that comes with winning,” Longoria said. “It’s kind of bittersweet to take a break right now. We’re kind of playing our best baseball. We’re going to go home, relax and regroup. Hopefully, we come back and continue to play the way we are [right now].”

Here are three questions surrounding the Giants as they prepare to enter the second half:

1) Will Buster Posey and the rest of the bats be able to turn it around?

A feeble offense emerged as one of the most glaring issues for the Giants in the first half, with virtually all of the club’s veterans performing below their usual standards. The Giants have particularly missed the middle-of-the-order production they’ve been accustomed to receiving from Posey, who did not earn an All-Star selection for the first time since 2011 after batting .253 with a career-low .693 OPS and three home runs over 65 games this year.

Bochy said he believes Posey wasn’t completely at 100 percent at the outset of the season after undergoing major hip surgery last August, but he remains confident that the veteran catcher will return to form following the All-Star break.

“I think it’s going to be a better second half, with it being further away from the surgery,” Bochy said. “But you look at him, and it’s pretty amazing that he may not quite show the power that he did, but he still finds a way to get his base hits and put it in play. He’s just got incredible hand-eye coordination. For him not to be quite full strength at times, including last year, he still figures [out] a way to get it done.”

Longoria’s swing is also starting to come around, as the 33-year-old third baseman homered Sunday for the fifth time in his last six games and is batting .429 (9-for-21) with seven extra-base hits over that stretch.

“You look at what he did in San Diego, that’s who he is,” Bochy said. “That’s what they’ve got to believe. That’s probably more important than what I believe. I think it’s just going to get better with all these guys in the second half. We’ve shown signs, but we have to do it over three months. It’s in them. They’re not old. We talked about this as a club. It’s still there. But it’s got to come from within, and that’s what we’ll see.”

2) How will Farhan Zaidi handle his first Trade Deadline with the Giants?

Zaidi, the Giants’ president of baseball operations, met with reporters before Sunday’s game to discuss the state of the team and touched on a variety of subjects over his 20-minute session, including his outlook on the July 31 Trade Deadline. Zaidi wouldn’t commit to being either a pure buyer or seller, as he said he’s been encouraged by what he’s seen over the last five weeks from the Giants, who are 19-14 since June 1.

“We said through the offseason and even into the season, our goal is to play meaningful baseball as deep into the season as we can,” Zaidi said. “If we continue to play well over these next couple weeks, then some of the narratives that are out there about what we might do it at the Trade Deadline are probably going to conflict with that goal to keep pushing on a season where we still hope to accomplish some things. ... We're just going to have to kind of continue to play this out, see where we are as a team and look for potential matches on the baseball front.”

Left-hander Madison Bumgarner and closer Will Smith, a first-time All-Star who converted his 23rd consecutive save opportunity to start the season Sunday, are expected to be the Giants’ biggest trade chips, but a few of the club’s other relievers, including Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and Reyes Moronta, could also draw interest from contenders.

This will be the first year that Major League Baseball will operate under a single Trade Deadline following the elimination of the August waiver period, though Zaidi said he has not yet detected an uptick in conversations or activity among teams as a result of the change.

“I feel like it's been pretty typical,” Zaidi said. “I still anticipate that really the last week or 10 days may be more frantic than we're used to.”

3) Which young players will get extended looks in the second half?

The emergence of rookie starters Shaun Anderson and Tyler Beede and the recent contributions of callups like Alex Dickerson and Austin Slater have been among the highlights of the first half for the Giants, and Zaidi believes there are more players at Triple-A Sacramento who will be given opportunities to make an impact in the coming months. If the Giants trade Bumgarner, for example, they’ll likely have left-hander Conner Menez ready to fill the void in their rotation. Reliever Sam Sellman and infielder Zach Green could also garner consideration down the line.

“We’ve talked about when you're looking at making a trade, trading away from a position of strength, to fill an area that maybe helps you in the present or in the short-term future,” Zaidi said. “A lot of that equation is whether you have the depth within the organization to backfill. We're looking at our Triple-A team, and there's a lot of guys there that are playing well and are deserving of opportunities. That may make it easier to make a baseball move off the Major League roster, knowing we have someone right behind who can fill in and keep us competitive in 2019. So that's going to be part of the thought process as well.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.