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Puig, Posey, Pence & Peavy

The Dodgers concluded a convincing three game road sweep of the Giants at AT&T Park last night and, much like San Francisco’s early season 9 1/2 game lead, it doesn’t mean much. They’re the superior squad now and Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. Kershaw is young, supremely talented, humble and smart. Outfielder Yasiel Puig could check ‘young’ and ‘supremely talented’ off that list and underline both with a fresh Sharpie but he’d likely be too distracted counting the stitches on his glove or checking the bill of his cap for excess lint. Puig is living proof for anybody looking to bolster the “God only gives you so much and leaves you to figure out the rest” argument. He spanked an astounding three triples while collecting four hits Friday night, but watching his final at-bat Sunday with the flap hanging all the way out of his back pocket, one gets the impression that the boy wasn’t first in the wisdom line at Cuban day school. Similarly, Dodger shortstop Hanley Ramirez with his half open uniform and batting helmet purposely askew looks more early Beastie Boys than modern day ballplayer. Not that any of this matters; pitching ultimately wins championships provided you field the ball well and put a few runs on the board. But there’s something about the Dodgers’ team chemistry with the un-Lasorda like Don Mattingly at the helm that leaves one wondering if all those hundreds of millions is enough to get it done.

The Giants, of course, have their own problems. Going by several first half postgame interviews, left fielder Michael Morse might make a good third alternate when Ramirez and Puig square off for a clubhouse session of Mastermind. A hulking six foot five, Morse resembles a cross between Herman Munster and Freddie Mercury. His home run and RBI production has unfortunately trailed off to where opposing pitchers checking the on-deck circle are more likely to see the Queen frontman than a bolt-necked Frankenstein. Brandon Belt, perennially on the verge of his ‘breakout season’ has once again proved a disabled list wonder, first with a jammed thumb and now a concussion resulting from trying to receive two infield practice balls at the same time. Catcher Hector Sanchez is also on the concussed DL having had his bell rung more times than a San Francisco cable car with brake failure. Add Matt Cain’s 127 million-dollar arm and Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan’s respective backs to that list and you start to get the picture. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint; the face of a pennant race can morph and form multiple times over the course of weeks. Just don’t go looking for Clayton Kershaw’s face to do much changing.

If the Giants have a Kershaw-esque player it’s catcher Buster Posey. A respected veteran at the ripe age of 27, he’s always possessed a particular baseball savvy – even as a 23 year-old rookie. If you could put that same savvy in Yasiel Puig’s head you’d have a combination far more potent than any anabolic steroid. Posey is having a respectable if not banner season and along with durable, crazy-legged right fielder Hunter Pence, has kept the Giants in the chase since the All Star break. If “ifs” were Chans, though, the Giants would have more than a Chinese phonebook. If Pagan comes back to fill the leadoff spot .. if Cain makes it back to the starting rotation .. if Belt returns with some pop and Morse follows suit .. if Romo can regain his lights-out slider .. if Lincecum digs deep for some of his old magic .. etc. I’ve watched enough baseball over the years to know that a lot of things can happen, smarts count, and pitching reigns supreme. I’ll use these and a few other well-placed cliches this Friday when I’m at Citi Field to watch San Francisco take on the Mets. Having been at Fenway Park just last weekend I’m counting my baseball blessings. My team is in the hunt and have won two World Series since 2010 .. by most other fans’ standards all those “ifs” are just nitpicking.

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