After the Giants and Padres finish their game on Sunday, the last day of the regular season, the Giants will pack their things up and get ready to play another game. The Brewers still might win five straight and the Giants might lose five straight, but that last sentence still applies.
The question before you: Do the Giants do everything possible to make sure Madison Bumgarner starts that game?
The ability of the Giants to make the playoffs -- the real playoffs -- will come down to one game. Their best pitcher should start this game. They should not have to worry about anything else until then, apart from home-field advantage in the playoff game against the Pirates.
The Pirates play the Reds after the Braves, FYI. The Reds are apparently awful now.
If I had to choose between my second-best location for the wild card and my second-best pitcher, I give up the venue every time. And it's not exactly "giving up" on the idea of hosting the game. It's just not making it the primary focus above the wild card game itself.
The alternatives are mostly unpalatable. The start comes in Tim Hudson's normal turn in the rotation, which isn't going to happen. The three rested pitchers by next Wednesday, assuming no changes to the rotation, are Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong, and Yusmeiro Petit. Without any changes, one of those three would need to start the most important game of the last two seasons.
Or the Giants could start Chris Heston on Saturday and Tim Lincecum on Sunday, and get everything lined up the way they want it. By skipping Peavy and Bumgarner, the Giants have less of a chance of catching the Pirates, but they should have a que-sera-sera mentality about that at this point, at least compared to the actual wild card game.
Home-field advantage is a huge deal in the playoffs. Plus, starting Bumgarner in the wild card game means that he goes just once in the NLDS:
Wed, Oct. 1 (Wild card): Bumgarner
Fri, Oct. 3 (NLDS): Peavy
Sat, Oct. 4 (NLDS): Vogelsong/Petit
Mon, Oct. 6 (NLDS): Petit/Vogelsong (or Bumgarner on normal rest)
Tues, Oct. 7 (NLDS): Bumgarner
Thurs, Oct. 9 (NLDS): Peavy
Start Bumgarner on his normal day (Sunday), and he can get a start on normal rest in Game 2 and a start on three day's rest in Game 5, if needed. He would be in line to pitch at least twice in the NLCS, including the opener. Also, we're talking about the Giants in the NLCS, even though they're disappointing and awful, but that's because I've been drinking since nine.
Still, That's an awful lot of Bumgarner to give up for the one-game playoff. Wouldn't this make more sense?
Wed, Oct. 1 (Wild card): Peavy
Fri, Oct. 3 (NLDS): Bumgarner
Sat, Oct. 4 (NLDS): Vogelsong/Petit
Mon, Oct. 6 (NLDS): Petit/Vogelsong (or Peavy on normal rest)
Tues, Oct. 7 (NLDS): Peavy
Thurs, Oct. 9 (NLDS): Bumgarner
By skipping Peavy's turn in the rotation this weekend instead of Bumgarner, the Giants could get Bumgarner an extra start chance in the NLDS. That seems like the same logic that's behind never pitching a closer in a tie game on the road -- as in, planning for the future that won't happen until good things happen, which are less likely to happen with the personnel the manager is deploying. It's kind of like that, sure. But the idea of Bumgarner starting one potential game in the NLDS gives me hives.
Gimme the yes. Bumgarner starts the wild card game. That puts the two-start onus on Peavy in the NLDS if needed, but that doesn't exactly leave me terrified. Bumgarner is the best pitcher on the staff. The Giants should have their best pitcher in their most important game of the last two seasons and worry about the rest after that.
Also, I'm worried about Tim Hudson starting in some of those playoff games over Yusmeiro Petit, which isn't something I was worried about in May. Baseball can sure be a real trap door under your toilet.
Also also, this assumes the Giants win one of the next three games or the Brewers lose one of the next three games before Peavy is scheduled on Saturday. Which, when you put it like that, makes me fearful and upset.