The Giants have reached a point where the Matt Duffy-Joe Panik Home Run Race has become a discussion topic.
That beats the heck out of discussing starting pitching struggles, or a banged-up lineup, or anything else they might have been focused on a month ago. When you’re flying home after a 5-2 road trip and you’ve taken 11 of 13 overall, you’re able to focus on the positive -- the fun.
So … who wins Duffy v. Panik?
“I was like all right, the race is on,” Panik said of his reaction to hitting his third homer this season. “Let’s go.”
Panik’s two-run shot was the difference in a 3-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers that clinched a first sweep in Milwaukee since 2010. A day earlier, Duffy hit his third blast in a 6-3 win. Power is coming from all corners all of a sudden, and it’s making life easier for a rotation that’s happy to take the boost.
[RECAP: Panik, Giants win 3-1, sweep Brewers]
Ryan Vogelsong was the latest starter to shine, giving up just one run over six innings to finish off a spectacular month. He allowed just four earned runs in five May starts, lowering an ERA to 4.24. It was 9.31 at the end of April.
“He’s so mentally tough. He did go through a tough time there,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s gotten in a better routine and he’s throwing the ball as well as anybody. What a great job he did today. Good for him.
“We needed him, he got his chance and he has run with it.”
Vogelsong trailed 1-0 as the game wore on, but Panik launched a Mike Fiers fastball into the sky in the fifth inning and the Giants never looked back. Panik was called out on strikes in his first at-bat but took the knowledge of Fiers into the rest of the game.
“It kind of woke me up a little bit, pissed me off to stay the least,” he said of his first at-bat.
Panik said a hit-and-run in the third locked his swing in “the way it should be.” He was ready when Fiers tried to sneak an 87-mph fastball past him in the fifth.
Vogelsong, Hunter Strickland, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla took the lead home. When the sweep was over, the outfielders gathered in center, huge smiles on the faces of all three players. A happy flight will bring out that kind of emotion.
“We’ve got to be happy with it,” Panik said. “Especially with the way everything was in Colorado (with the rain), it definitely took a toll on guys. The pitchers threw a lot and the bullpen did a good job of hanging tough and position guys were hanging through the rain. Coming out (of the trip) 5-2, you’ve got to be happy with it.”
The 37-year-old Vogelsong said this was one of the toughest road trips he has been a part of.
“For us to come out of here 5-2, that really, really shows what our team is made of,” Vogelsong said. “Everybody in here should be proud of the way we handled the road trip.”