Just when it seemed that the San Francisco Giants' lineup was back and healthy, the team takes a major blow to their playoff chances. In a statement released before the start of Wednesday's game against the Washington Nationals effective immediately, outfielder Melky Cabrera has received a 50-game suspension without pay after testing positive for Testosterone.
Instead of focusing on the great pitchers' duel ahead between Tim Lincecum and Stephen Strasburg, the Giants organization must now hurry and adjust on the fly if they want to win the NL West pennant and go to the playoffs. Cabrera has been one of the biggest contributors to the team's success on offense and has had a career year full of accolades. Now, all of this success and stability in the heart of the lineup is gone.
Currently leading the league with 159 hits, Cabrera's .346 batting average and great run-producing numbers were a big improvement from his 2011 breakout season with the Kansas City Royals. This year's All-Star Game MVP and a potential NL MVP candidate, he was in line for a huge payday after this season was over as a free agent.
Cabrera's absence will also place even more pressure on the three hitters in the heart of the lineup. With him now gone, Hunter Pence's contributions will be more crucial and under an even bigger microscope. Also, Pablo Sandoval's health will certainly be necessary for the rest of the season and Buster Posey will need to continue his excellent August, where he has put up six home runs, 15 RBIs, and a .439 batting average in 13 games. With Cabrera no longer batting third in the lineup, a spot where he hit .363 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs, the Giants will need to quickly find a lineup order that will produce a high number runs similar to the offensive production of the past week.
This suspension also triggers changes with the rest of the defensive lineup. With an opening in the outfield, will Gregor Blanco start games in Cabrera's place? Will Brandon Belt move to the outfield and give Sandoval and Posey time at first base and Marco Scutaro regular time at third base? Will the Giants try to pick up one of the few veteran outfielder available in free agency or call up the likes of Justin Christian or even prized prospect Gary Brown?
Cabrera's suspension leaves many question marks behind as to how the Giants' lineup will shape up for the rest of the season. While he would be eligible to return to the team after their first five games of the playoffs, the Giants will first have to make it through a much tougher path now that he is no longer a part of their postseason push.
Melky Cabrera suspended 50 games for positive testosterone test, Big League Stew, Yahoo! Sports
Buster Posey 2012 Split Stats, Yahoo! Sports
Melky Cabrera 2012 Situational Stats, Yahoo! Sports
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