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The Nationals are starting their three best pitchers against the Giants

That's basically cheating.

Mitchell Layton

Dammit, Tigers.

You might have an idea where this is going. The Tigers traded Doug Fister in a fit of arrogance over the winter. There was no good reason to do so, and they received an underwhelming return. Months later, they traded their fan-favorite center fielder for David Price and replaced him with the Folgers Crystals of Rajai Davis. The Tigers said they were doing it to save a little money, except they immediately spent more money on Joe Nathan than they would have saved. It never fails to make me really perplexed and angry, even though I don't care about the Tigers.

Rajai Davis ... Joe Nathan ... Doug Fister ... Game 2 ... dang it, the dots have to connect somehow ... this is driving me insane ... there has to be a link ...

This comes up now because the Giants have to hit against Fister on Friday night. They shouldn't have to face him, but here he is, all Fistery and good and in the Giants' face. I'm angry at the Tigers.

Except, I probably shouldn't be. If Fister weren't pitching for the Nationals tonight, do you know who would be? Someone good. They'll start Fister on Friday, Jordan Zimmermann on Saturday, and Stephen Strasburg on Sunday, which is just gross.

I see this as an opportunity, however. This series isn't going to prove anything -- short series never, ever do -- but it can help us reconcile how we feel about the 2014 Giants. The Nationals are the kind of team the Giants can expect to see if they somehow stumble into the wild card playoff and then somehow stumble into the NLDS. They are, as they say, a good team. And if the Giants look like complete butts in this series, I don't feel it's too cynical to stop caring quite as much about the wild card chase.

If the Giants look like complete butts, it will mark the ninth straight time they've failed to win a series against a team that's currently fighting for a playoff spot. Yet we're all spending so much energy worrying about them, hoping they'll sneak into the playoffs, checking the standings every day, so they can ... somehow not get shamed by good teams and embarrass us all? I don't get it.

So I'm looking for a sign. Looking for the Giants to open our eyes. No one's going to drag us up in the light where we belong. I'm looking for the Giants to play like a normal team and show us why we should still be excited about the prospects of the playoffs, a famous baseball tournament in which good teams will play good baseball against good teams.

The Giants are supposed to be one of those good teams. Were supposed to be one of those good teams. I can't remember anymore. The reason they were ever expected to contend in the first place was the lineup, and if you stop giggling, I'll explain. The Giants were supposed to contend because Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and Buster Posey comprised a solid middle of the order. Angel Pagan is a nifty leadoff hitter, and you can pretend that Joe Panik is the healthy Marco Scutaro we were hoping for. Michael Morse is the solid hit-and-miss player a lot of folks thought he would be, and it was reasonable to hope that Brandon Crawford wouldn't be a drag on the lineup.

The only way this lineup strayed from expectations is with Brandon Belt. He's a big loss, mind you, but even if the idea of Travis Ishikawa taking his place is a coded message from the universe, this is basically the same collection of hitters that made April and May seem like something the Giants might possibly keep up.

This series, then, will help us decide if there's a point to caring so much. If the Giants can't hit Fister, Zimmermann, or Strasburg, it's not like they're going to kick down the door to the playoffs and find out they're facing four Edwins Jackson and a Pat Rapp. They'll get more pitchers like the ones the Nationals are starting in this series. Maybe the exact same pitchers. I'm not sure how it's remotely possible to get excited about the playoffs if the Giants look like complete butts this weekend.

So do your worst, Giants. Or your best. Let us know how we should feel about this mess, this still-contending, still-relevant mess.

Don't look like complete butts, Giants. That's the main point. That and, good gravy, look at the three pitchers the Nationals are starting over the weekend,