Giants righting the ship just in time?
We all know how forgettable the second half of July through most of August was for these San Francisco Giants. They lost their stranglehold on the NL West lead and went from one of the top teams in all of baseball in the first half to a team that's going to have to kick and fight their way into a postseason spot down the stretch.
None of the deals they made at the deadline seemed to give the team the shot in the arm they were hoping for that first month or so after the deals (aside from a few decent starts from Matt Moore). The beautiful thing about baseball, however, is that you can go through prolonged rough patches, but as long as you figure things out by September and are still in the hunt, your never really out of it. We're seeing something like this go on with these San Francisco Giants. I mean, they've been one of the worst teams in baseball after the break and it's not like they've had a bunch of injuries or anything to blame that on. However, Since the calendar flipped over the September, the urgency in the Giants' play has picked up a bit, and although that recent three-game sweep suffered at the hands of the Padres earlier this week, it came on the heels of a three-game sweep of Arizona and they've no taken the first two of a four game set with the wild card hopeful Cardinals. As things stand on September 17th, the Giants are still 4 games out of the West, but they'll have ample opportunity to make up ground on the Dodgers there even though there's less than 15 games left in the season. The Giants have 6 of their remaining 16 games left with their SoCal rivals so the West isn't quite as done of a deal as many believe.
As far as the wild card situation, unless the Giants have a complete meltdown, which is entirely possible with the way their unpredictable second half has transpired, but their starters are throwing very well right now and I just don't see them relinquishing their top Wild Card spot. The Giants and Mets hold the two spots right now, and the next closest team to them is the very team the Giants are facing this weekend and have already taken the first two games of the series against in St. Louis. If the Giants can finish them off and sweep the Cards these next two games, I think that will pretty much lock them into a postseason birth. They currently sit 3 games back of the Giants who hold the first WC spot and 2 back of the Mets who hold the 2nd. Two more wins vs. the Cards would put the Giants 5 games up on them with 13 games left at that point so these next two are big for the Giants if they want to ensure their spot in the postsesaon.
So, it can shake out plenty of different ways, but as of now, with the Giants' play looking much more fundamentally sound and consistent, they should have themselves a spot in the playoffs, most likely via the Wild Card though and probably vs. the New York Mets. And, as we've said all along, this Giants team is built for playoff series with the strong starting pitching and a lineup full of hitters who've excelled on the big stage often more so than they do during the regular season. In other words, if they get in, they have as good a shot as any, including the Cubbies and Dodgers, at keeping that even year magic alive.
Now, you ask, what has changed between the Giants team we've seen the last couple weeks from the one we saw stinking it up for 6 weeks after the break? First and foremost, that starting pitching, which did run into a bit of a hiccup in August, looks like they've fallen right back in line as to where they expect to be. Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner have been there all year, but Matt Moore has started to string together some pretty nice outings himself. He's gone 4-1 over his last 5 starts, allowing just 11 earned runs and a 30:9 K/BB ratio over 28 innings of work. It's been his best 5-game stretch as a Giant by far. So yes, the objective of that widely unpopular deal to trade Matt Duffy away for Matt Moore is starting to pay dividends and has indeed has looked like the guy the Rays were gushing about a few seasons back when the left-hander went 17-4 and looked like a perennial all-star in down in Tampa. With those three heading the rotation and Jeff Samardzija rounding out what would be a four-man playoff rotation, the Giants have to feel pretty good with the way things are transpiring inside their staring rotation .
Extras: Saturday night's game is about to start so I'm having to cut this post a little short. I wanted to talk a little bit about the bullpen and of course give my thoughts on the lineup and maybe some different combos I'd like to see Bochy use over the next couple weeks heading into October. Be sure to check back after the game though for Saturday's game recap and more! This is the most exciting point of the season and there isn't any shortage of topics to talk about... We'll be back in few hours!