I remember another time the Giants were two games behind the Dodgers in late September, with the potential to fall into a ravine or make a substantial move.
Indeed. The Giants could have left that series in 1997 four games out. They could have been two games out. They left the series tied. It was, as they say, an enjoyable series.
Earlier on Thursday, I posted what the worst-case scenarios would look like for the Giants and the wild card. If they finish the season 7-9, now, either the Braves or Brewers would have to finish 14-2 to overtake them. That exercise was one part comforting, one part confronting my darkest fear in order to conquer it. Like Batman! Exactly like Batman.
Except, screw that. If the Giants had lost to the Diamondbacks in the series finale, there would have been that annoying sense of "Oh, well. Can't be mad. They played well", just like the Tigers series. Instead, they swept them. They got greedy, so greedy, and swept them. And now I'm greedy, too. I'm not going to return the wild card's texts for a while. There's still a chance at the division. Still a very, very real chance. The Dodgers would have to play the one-and-done playoff to make the playoffs, which would mean they'd have about a 50-percent chance of not making the NLDS, give or take.
There's also an excellent chance that I won't feel my toes before the start of tomorrow's game.
The difference between that '97 team and this team, other than the everything, was that team wasn't supposed to do much. The Dodgers were the juggernaut back then, the rightful heirs to the throne, and the Giants were supposed to be a team that fluked into a fast start and slowly disintegrated, which was kind of the truth. The 2014 Giants, though, were supposed to contend, and when they started so hot, the division almost seemed like a given. Of course they're this good. We should have seen it all along. Then, there was the unpleasantness.
The Giants just won their ninth straight home game. They're 9-3 in their last 12 games, winning two series against teams in the playoff race. They're getting the lucky hits, the tough hits, the long hits, the strong outings, the lucky outings ... they look like the team from May at just the right time.
And now I'm greedy. Division or bust. The Giants can wake up on Monday six games out, three games out, one game out, or one game ahead. In one of those scenarios, the division is still somewhat winnable. In two of the others, it's still very winnable.
This is, again, the weirdest danged team I ever remember watching. Here's the 2014 Giants:
Host: Thanks so much for coming! Can I get you some acid?
Partygoer: Wait, I ... no, that's okay.
Host: Oh, dang. That's all we have. You'll just have to hang out here, sober and uncomfortable, and make small talk with people on acid.
Partygoer: Do you have, like, a beer or something?
Host: No. I can get you some acid, though.
It's acid or nothing. The Giants want a glass of wine every so often. They wish they were so lucky.
If you're looking for something to make you feel like the Giants discovered a dusty box of even-year magick, this will make you think.
No big deal. Just Hunter Pence literally throwing his bat at the baseball like he's an 8-year-old exchange student trying to fit in his first P.E. class.
My favorite parts, in order:
- It was Hunter Pence. Dan Uggla could have done this. Brandon Hicks could have done this. Angel Pagan could have done this. Except it was Pence, who had already authored one of the greatest freak-swing hits of his generation.
- Randall Delgado reacted like he was one of those giraffe toys where you push a button and the body goes limp. I clapped and squealed like he was just pushed out of the Moon Door.
- The ball hit the base. It was probably going to be a hit regardless, but there were style points involved. The ball hit a 15-inch square about 127 feet away and caromed away.
- The hit scored a run with two outs, just like in the olden days.
Hopefully the magic isn't finite, and it wasn't wasted in a game they were likely to win against a bad team with three weeks left in the season. But it made me start thinking about things like momentum, which is probably hokum. Except when you're watching lightning strike the same tree over and over, sometimes it's easier to blame a capricious lightning god.
On July 10, the A's beat the Giants and moved to a 58-34 record, the best in baseball. They'd do some more winning, and the Giants would do some more losing, and on August 9, the A's were 72-44, and the Giants were 63-55. As of Thursday, they're both 81-65. This game will really make you think.
Drink, I mean. This game will really make you drink. It's almost like we shouldn't take random stretches of losing so hard in a long, 162-game season. Almost.
The revitalized Jake Peavy is making Brian Sabean look awfully cagey and astute. Rather than catapult a dozen prospects to another team in a fit of July 31 desperation, Sabean jumped the market on a decent, if unspectacular, arm. He had to get someone. He took a chance on the pitcher who was likely to have more success in a big ballpark.
They play in small ballparks during the playoffs, too, so it's not like we get to smile smugly and announce to the world that the Giants traded for a Cy Young-winning ace. But the alternative to trading for Peavy was to trust Yusmerio Petit when Matt Cain went down. In retrospect, that's probably not a bad thing, except that also means that either Tim Lincecum is still in the rotation, or that his spot is filled with someone from the back 20 of the Giants' prospect list, who probably wasn't ready.
Peavy's staying, too. There's a need. There's a spot. There's a manager who's as fond of him as he is of the manager. I can see the Giants offering him the Hudson before the season's even over. It's not a bad strategy, swooping on the older guys for short-term deals. I don't see him testing the free-agent market this offseason. Not when there's ducks to kill with your skipper in the offseason.
To put it another way, the Cardinals gave up a ton for John Lackey, and they gave up a little something for Justin Masterson. Those two guys have stunk since the deadline. That could have been the Giants. Instead, Jake Peavy has been something of a boss level for the other teams, and he annoys the Padres at the same time. Win/Win.
Buster Posey had another three-hit game. Here's hoping for a dumb collation of pitchers-shouldn't-win folks and MVPs-have-to-play-on-a-winning team goofs. The former will hose Clayton Kershaw. The latter might hose Giancarlo Stanton. I'll take the help that's offered and assume that Posey wins the award .
That we're even talking about this is amazing. We're not even a couple months removed from one of the worst slumps of his career. He even took off for second on an 0-2 count, and he aggressively attempted to take third on a wild pitch. He was a New Man.
I think he got into the "player's coffee" before the game. He should probably keep doing that.