Giants need strong finish to salvage season

If you chose to completely tune out during Labor Day weekend and have missed any and all local sports updates, the big Giants news was: He’s back.

Major Leadoff. The Sultan Of Swagger. The man most likely to have a full-blown conversation with the plate ump when he disagrees with a called strike three.

Yes. Spicy centerfielder Angel Pagan returned to the Giants (61-75) lineup Friday night in killer fashion.

Pagan smacked a leadoff double and subsequently scored the only run of the game as San Francisco beat the Diamondbacks in the series opener in Arizona, 1-0.

Pagan’s presence seemed to light a fire under the Giants derrieres. In Friday’s game alone, Marco Scutaro made a throw for an out at first from a seated position, the type of how’d-he-do-that play we haven’t seen much of from the 37-year-old second baseman this season.

Pablo Sandoval — whom manager Bruce Bochy has referred to as “cat-like” since dropping a few bills as of late — made a diving catch and throw to first that made highlight reels swoon.

And Tim Lincecum (8-13, 4.38 ERA) continued his streak of dominant starts, pitching six shut-out innings.

Even when Pagan was on the bench during Sunday’s finale in Arizona, the G-men played with a new energy in an 8-2 triumph.

Hector Sanchez hit a three-run shot while Buster Posey and Hunter Pence smacked back-to-back RBI doubles in the ninth inning, on top of Pence’s slicing homer in the fourth inning that started a rally for San Francisco.

So the Giants batting lineup is finally back together the way they like it, and everyone’s bats have heated up.

Now what?

It’s September. While the Giants are no longer at the bottom of the barrel and finally playing games that are fun to watch again, they’re still hopelessly mired 20 games back in NL West.

Even those of us who watched the Orange & Black before the 2010 post-season when the club couldn’t win squat are feeling a bit lost. No push for October ball? What are these shenanigans?

Keep your shorts on, kids. There is still a full month of baseball left. Here is what we have to look at in the upcoming month:

Call-Ups Tuesday: As is customary during September ball, MLB teams will be calling up players from minor league camp to join the big boys for the final month of the regular season.

It will sort of look like Spring Training with how packed the dugout is going to get. But hey, that’s kind of the fun of seeing some of the young talent coming up through the system.

Other clubs have already started calling players up, but being that the Fresno Grizzlies season hasn’t concluded yet, you can expect to see guys like Nick Noonan back in the Bigs as soon as Tuesday.

New York Series: The Giants’ final road series for the 2013 season will take them to the Big Apple, where they will take on the Mets (62-74), followed by a three-game interleague series with the Yankees (73-64).

Interleague play hasn’t been kind to the Orange & Black this season, with the Giants 5-12 against AL competitors.

The Giants and Yankees haven’t matched up since 2007 in San Francisco, when the Giants took two of three from the Yankees in a series where Roger Clemens — in his first relief appearance in 23 years — issued a five-pitch walk to Barry Bonds.

So really, anything goes the weekend of September 20.

Enjoy How Well The Boys Are Playing Down The Stretch: The Giants might not be battling for a playoff spot right now, but they’re finally playing the caliber of baseball we enjoy watching.

The starting rotation, after battling injury and inconsistency all season, has finally found its stride, and those starters are finally getting the run support to back their outings.

One particular appearance that should not go unnoticed was Yusmeiro Petit’s start in Arizona, where he issued a career-high 10 strikeouts in six innings and only gave up two runs.

Having offense to back them doesn’t hurt either, as San Francisco’s bats have finally started to heat up. Scutaro, Sandoval and Posey — who hit his 32nd double of the season Sunday — are all putting the bat on the ball.

Brandon Belt looks to continue his late-summer hot streak into September. Hunter Pence, while he likes to remain humble and not talk about it, did hit the longest home run of the MLB season last week, with a 476-foot shot against the Colorado Rockies.

After taking two of three against the D-backs, the Giants head to San Diego Tuesday for their final appearance at Petco Park this season.

Posey is hitting .478 over his last six against the Padres headed into Monday, so hopefully history will continue to trend in that direction.

And hey! Angel Pagan had a colossal ninth inning walk-off hit against the Padres at AT&T Park on April 20. So if he wants to repeat that performance in his late-season return, that would be just dandy.


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