THE SANTA CLARA
September 29, 2016
Sitting with the best record in the MLB at the All-Star break, the Giants seemed poised to make a run for yet another title this year. A championship would continue a prolific winning trend, in which the Giants have won a title in each even year, starting in 2010.
Fast forward to Sept. 15, when the Giants were clinging to a four game lead over the Cardinals for the second wild card spot. After a head-to-head series between the two playoff contenders and a cringeworthy sweep to the lowly Padres, the Giants lead is down to a single game ahead of the Cardinals for the second wild card.
So much for the dynasty.
To be fair, San Francisco is just one and a half games back of the for the first spot, so it’s far from over. Plus just two years ago, the Giants survived the one game Wild Card and ended up with a World Series championship.
Yet, rather than heating up down the stretch, as in years past, the Giants are fading as they head into the last two crucial series of the year.
It’s been a steady decline since the All-Star break. San Francisco has scuffled to a 25-41 record and lost their grip on a sizable division lead to the Dodgers.
The Giants simply do not have the same recipe that has led them towards the championship runs of years past. Too many key players are having down years and cold streaks.
Buster Posey’s timely hits won’t carry them this time through October. Playoff heroes of years past, such as Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence have struggled mightily down the stretch run. They won’t magically turn it around come the playoffs.
Madison Bumgarner is still a workhorse, but he can’t pitch every game. After him and Johnny Cueto, consistent starts have been hard to come by. Don’t expect much from Jeff Samardzija and newly acquired Matt Moore when they’re battling elite pitchers and facing potent playoff lineups.
And unlike most years, the back-end of their bullpen can’t help steal games in the later innings. The combination of Hunter Strickland and Santiago Casilla in the 9th doesn’t scare anyone and even steady Javier Lopez is posting the worst numbers of his careers.
The dwindling Giants are 4-6 in their last 10. Their last two series are against the Rockies and Dodgers at home. The Rockies are always good for lighting up the scoreboard at any given time and the Dodgers will be happy to eliminate the Giants completely after securing the division over the weekend.
Bottom line—this final stretch will be a battle. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume the Giants hold onto their dwindling Wild Card lead.
The Giants will be heavy underdogs in every round of the playoffs. If the season ended today, San Francisco would travel to New York and face Noah Syndergaard and the Mets in a one game playoff. If they miraculously survive that, they’d travel to Chicago and take on the 100+ win Cubs. They’d be lucky if they got a game.
The Giants are always good for timely wins with Bochy and company, but there are simply too many obstacles to overcome.