Two nights ago, I would say, was probably the lowest point for SF Giants fans in a long time. Yes, the SF Giants have blown other games this season and the way the Giants have played after the All Star Break has been frustrating. Two nights ago, however, with Madison Bumgarner pitching a gem against our division rivals in LA and against arguably the best pitcher in the game this decade with a 1-0 lead only to see it evaporate so quickly in the final inning was probably the toughest pill to swallow for us Giants fans. I can go on and on as to what the Giants should have done to avoid such a heartbreak of a loss and how the Giants lost the game in glorious fashion but the fact remained that most of us were ready to hit the panic button.
Well not this Giants fan and don't lose hope yet! The Giants were obviously confronted with a similar situation last night but this time it was Johnny Cueto on the mound (even though he didn't quite pitch a gem like Bumgarner and is now dealing with a groin injury) and a familiar face from the 2012 title closing it out. We didn't blow it last night! Now we are in a three way tie for the final two playoff spots with 11 games left in the season.
Is this torture? ABSOLUTELY! It is never easy with these SF Giants and after winning three World Series in a five year span, can anyone truly say watching those games in 2010, 2012, and 2014 was never nerve wracking? NO! I am overly optimistic but I truly have faith that this WILD ride the SF Giants have taken us on this season (best record in baseball for the 1st half and worst record for the 2nd half) is all part of the torture we have become all too familiar with this team in this decade. Wouldn't it only be fitting that the SF Giants make the postseason this year as a WILD card team!
Keep in mind the following things.
The Giants did win the World Series in 2014 as a WILD card team and in fact were the 5th and final playoff seed. Bumgarner of course carried this team on his back and if Bruce Bochy just lets his ace be the man, Bumgarner can do it again. Oh, we also have another ace this time as long as we let him rest the next two weeks.
The Giants play all of their remaining games on West Coast whereas the other two teams the Giants are tied with for the final two playoff spots all play their final 11 games in the Central time zone or on the East Coast. That means there will be a lot of scoreboard watching and the Giants will know exactly where they stand prior to taking the first pitch of each of the 11 remaining games. In essence, the SF Giants still control their own destiny and will know how crucial each game will be to its playoff chances. Should they try to win every game? Yes! Will they? Probably not but for each time the Mets and Cardinals lose, the Giants can go into their games with enough intensity to make sure they get the W for that night and get all that much closer to earning a playoff spot.
Teams that have to scratch and claw in the final two weeks of the regular season just to earn a playoff spot usually wind up going deep into the playoffs. 2014 is a great example. The Royals and Giants both saw each other in the World Series that year and both were wild card teams that didn't make the postseason all that easily. In 2010, the SF Giants won the division title on the last day of the regular season and no playoff spot was guaranteed going into the final series against San Diego. There have been several other teams that have won the whole thing as a wild card team or the last team to clinch a division title. The point being is that when teams are forced to play "playoff like" baseball prior to the playoffs actually starting, they are better equipped to handle the rigors of the playoffs as they are more accustomed to the type of micro management that is necessary to win crucial baseball games (like smart pitching and lineup changes, stealing bases, defensive shifts, sacrificing runners over, etc). The top teams that usually coast into the playoffs sometimes are in for a rude awakening as they are not used to managing the intricacies of the game until it's too late. Every team in the postseason is good so just relying on talent alone is not enough to get to the World Series (Chicago Cubs, take note).
We have Bruce Bochy who I still feel is the smartest baseball manager of our time. First ballot Hall of Famer for sure.
It is an even year. :-)
OK, there you have it. Don't panic yet! Even the division title is possible but I am not holding my breath for that way of earning a playoff spot. Just get to the postseason and we can watch the Giants do what they do best: torture us en route to another World Series title!