Healthy Giants Move Into First Place in NL West

Just over a month ago, the San Francisco Giants were dealing with a handful of injuries to their roster, and the season was looking glum at best. However, with the emergence of rookies Chris Heston and Matt Duffy, the Giants have established themselves as one of the best teams in baseball.

The return of Hunter Pence has been extremely important to the sudden turn-around for the team as he is driving in runs and playing stellar defense in right field. Perhaps more important than that, though, was the three-game series at home against the Dodgers, where the Giants' pitching staff collectively shutout Los Angeles for the entire series.

Whenever teams go up against a division rival, the games have extra meaning attached to them regardless of how early it is in the season. However, with the first-place Dodgers coming to San Francisco, this series was one of the first big tests for the Giants, and they responded in a big way. 

Now, with the offense leading most statistical categories for the month of May, the Giants are looking to maintain their momentum and build some separation between themselves and the pesky Dodgers. The biggest question mark going forward is, surprisingly, not the Giants' offense, which is blistering hot right now.

Instead, the question lies with the starting pitching. Outside of Madison Bumgarner, the Giants really should not be getting this much production. Tim Hudson is practically 40 years old, Tim Lincecum has struggled mightily the last two seasons, Heston is a rookie, and Ryan Vogelsong was forced into the regular rotation because of injuries to Matt Cain and Jake Peavy.    

Despite these odds stacked against them, each and every one of these pitchers has had a dazzling start to the year. Heston and Lincecum, in particular, are the keys to the Giants' success so far. Both pitchers have given manager Bruce Bochy five wins already on the year. In addition, Lincecum is sporting an amazing 2.56 ERA.

Who knows whether the Giants can expand on this 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers in the N.L. West standings, but let's not bet against it with Lincecum taking the mound Saturday.