Good afternoon. The Giants still have the best record in baseball, and they just took three out of four from a good baseball team. They haven't lost a series in a month and are off to their best start in 41 years.
If the Giants won a 4-3 squeaker on six Cardinals errors and a blown call, you still would have been feeling good. Instead, it took them three batters to score more runs than the Cardinals did all afternoon. They won 8-0, but it never really felt that close. In the second game out of their last three, the Giants played a beautifully uninteresting game, the kind that made the home crowd leave three innings early. The kind that made the away crowd keep the game on the TV in the background like it was a favorite record while they worked. Hooray for this games and other games like it.
You will read about how the Giants are lucky. This well-written piece is titled "The Giants are in the casino again and they just hit another five-card 21." Your first instinct might be to dismiss this sort of jabber, that it's coming from #haters who don't see this team play every day, man. How dare they besmirch our beautiful baseball team?
Except you're going to have to let that go. Of course the Giants have been lucky this year. They're playing at a 105-win pace. If you don't think the Giants have been a little lucky, then you're thinking this is the best team in San Francisco history. Better than any team with Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Juan Marichal. Better than any team with Will Clark and Matt Williams. Better than any team with Barry Bonds. Better than either of the two championship teams. Better than any team with Steve Holm, Brian Horwitz, and Travis Denker. This is, apparently, a well-constructed team. But it probably isn't the best team in franchise history.
The appropriate response, then, isn't to dismiss that talk, but to embrace it. Revel in the two-out magic, because there's no guarantee it's going to show up in the next day, month, or several months. Stare at the MLB.com standings page, because it's a gorgeous unfinished portrait with the potential to be so much better than you ever hoped. As Purple Row noted:
The bad news is that the damage is already done in terms bringing them from a fringe contender to a extremely likely playoff team.
If you thought the Giants were a .500 team before the season, then you might be half-comforted to know that .500 baseball over the rest of the season would give them around 88 or 89 wins. That would make a playoff run possible. I pegged them for something like an 88-win team to begin with, though, and if they play like an 88-win team for the rest of the season, they would finish with 94 wins -- almost certainly enough to get them at least a play-in to the playoffs.
Of course, it's probably time to christen the official logo of the 2014 Giants for the next month or two.
That note up there about how the Giants were off to their best start in 41 years? That's a reference to the 1973 Giants, who stumbled horribly down the stretch and missed the playoffs. There were three fewer playoff teams back then, and the Giants would have at least been a wild card under the current system, but still.
Remember that picture of The Wolf. Let's not start something our somethings just yet. Love it. Live it. But, if you can take a minute not to be cynical or suspicious, use that minute to say "How's about them Giants?" under your breath and prop your feet on the coffee table. While nothing's a guarantee, it sure is better to win the games than it is to lose them.
Giants baseball: It sure is better when they win a bunch of games.
A counterargument to the luck talk: Matt Cain's sandwich and hamstrings, Brandon Belt's bones, Marco Scutaro's back gremlins, Tim Hudson's hip, Pablo Sandoval's abominable start, and continued meh from Tim Lincecum.
The most important thing that needs to be fixed if the Giants are going to do anything, though, is Buster Posey. He's been a streaky hitter his entire career, so it makes sense to expect him to make a full return to form, except backs are the 100-page tax forms of the human body. A typo on page 56 makes the whole thing unworkable. The output is altered dramatically. Players with back problems don't have to get better just because they've been better in the past. Sometimes, they keep hitting like a player with a back problem.
A 3-for-5 day doesn't eliminate those concerns, but it helps everyone feel better until the next game. Posey looked good, with an opposite-field stroke that looked awfully familiar and welcome. If you're in a happy-fun-time mood, picture him finishing out this year like he finished out 2012. The Giants are going to win 120 games, everyone. THE GIANTS ARE G
He doesn't have to be a maniac for the Giants to make the playoffs this year. That's the benefit of an apparently deep team. But it's worth remembering that he's a dormant monster in the middle of the lineup. Maybe those three days off helped him more than anyone expected.
(Or, maybe it's just one 3-for-5 day. But that's no fun.)
If Lance Lynn ever shook hands with Clayton Kershaw, they'd both explode. I'm very much for testing that hypothesis. Because of science. Lynn has 14⅔ innings against the Giants in the regular season, and he has an 0-3 record and 16 runs allowed. Those totals move up to a 0-4 mark in 22 innings with 24 runs allowed if you include the playoffs.
If I had to pick a favorite Cardinal, I think I would pick Lance Lynn.
Part of me keeps waiting for Tim Hudson to cut it out, but another part of me remembers that another sinker-throwin' fool, Rick Reuschel, didn't cut it out for two years, even though he was older than almost every other starting pitcher in baseball. Hudson's effortless sinker and uncanny ability to limit his workload is so fun to watch. I'm glad he's not Bronson Arroyo.
I'm glad a lot of people aren't Bronson Arroyo, now that I think about it. Hudson, my next-door neighbor, my dermatologist, the lead singer of Neurosis ... it's kind of an all-purpose thing to be thankful for.
Joaquin Arias picked a fine day to remind us of his existence, replacing Michael Morse and going 3-for-4 with three runs batted in. This helps us remember that the Giants should have a good bench. A five-man reserve squad of Gregor Blanco, Hector Sanchez, Brandon Hicks, Tyler Colvin, and Arias would make for an excellent, versatile crew. There's power from both sides (Colvin and Hicks), speed (Blanco), a decent reserve catcher who hits from both sides, and an infield Swiss Army Knife of moderate ability (Arias).
Once Marco Scutaro comes b ...
Once the Giants trade for a second baseman, or if Joe Panik forces his way into an I Can't Believe It's Not Scutaro! starting spot, and once Belt comes back, the bench will be pretty spiffy. Until then, the reserves are helping the Giants do some sensational things, like win 37 out of their first 57 games*.
* This is the best record in baseball