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Winning the NL West through hindsight

Hindsight best sight, like I always say

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs have started, and if you've been wondering why you can't find the Giants playing anywhere, no, it's not because the existence of "Fox Sports 1" is a prank that everyone except you is in on. They actually didn't make the playoffs this year, which is sad because as a Giants fan, you very badly wanted them to make the playoffs. If only you'd done a better job of communicating that, they'd probably still be playing. Let that be a lesson to you.

But we're not here to blame each other for the athletic failures of people we don't technically "know." Let's figure out how the Giants could have made the playoffs. Now, they finished (checks standings) 8 game out, so . . . 8 games out? I should really check how much work is gonna go into these articles before I start them.

Here are 8 winnable games that, if the Giants had won all of them and nothing else had changed during the season – which, just to be clear, is an extremely plausible hypothetical – would have gotten them in the playoffs.

April 16

The first heartbreaker shows up before we're even two weeks into the season. After the Diamondbacks took a 3-run lead in the fifth, the Giants chipped away, scoring two in the seventh and one in the ninth to tie. In the ninth, the Giants had Nori Aoki up with Joe Panik on third and two outs, and Aoki struck out. If he had just gotten a dang hit, then . . . you know what? Getting a hit in the majors is hard. Maybe it's unfair to expect that every time.

Let't move on to the tenth! After the Diamondbacks scored, a Matt Duffy single tied the game again in the bottom of the inning. The Giants had Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford coming up with the bases loaded and one out, and neither of them could get the run in. In this alternate history, instead of grounding into a force out at home, Panik hits a grounder that goes past a drawn-in infield. Or he hits a medium deep fly ball. Either way, Giants win! That's one game in the bank. See how easy this is? That's something that definitely could have happened.

May 31

Santiago Casilla came into the ninth with a 2-run lead, and he exited with a 2-run deficit. Now, there is a burgeoned blame-Casilla-first crowd who like to find every mistake he makes and jump around excitedly while hooting and pointing at it. And that's your right, and I don't want to take it from you. He wasn't especially effective in this game. He gave up a homer, a walk, a single, and a triple in the span of five batters. That's bad.

But this wasn't entirely Casilla's fault! Brandon Crawford had a sure double play ball hit to him with a one-run lead and one out in the ninth (after the walk mentioned in the earlier five-batter span), and he just booted it. It was one of those bizarre baseball things that just happens sometimes. If Brandon Crawford turns a double play that he will be able to turn when he's 90 years old and asleep, the Giants win. So let's say he does that. Two wins! I dunno what all those science fiction shows are talking about; playing God is fun and there are no negative consequences whatsoever.

July 1

By necessity, I'm not going to be very nice to Santiago Casilla in this article, because he was involved in losing a lot of these games. So just to be clear: In the list of every Giants pitcher ever with at least 100 innings pitched, Santiago Casilla has the second-best ERA+. He's behind only Robb Nen. Santiago Casilla has had a phenomenal Giants career.

That said, Santiago Casilla was terrible in this game. He entered with a 5-3 lead, and immediately gave up a single to Christian Yelich, a single to Adeiny Hechavarria, and a home run to whatever the hell a Justin Bour is. Instead of that, let's just say that Eli Whiteside notices Casilla's got nothing while they're still in the bullpen. Bochy instead uses Sergio Romo to close. Sergio Romo gets a save. Three wins!

August 3

The Giants had a 6-run lead with Matt Cain on the mound, and were thinking "Oh, hey, no problem, we'll win." Unbeknownst to them, Matt Cain was actually 2015 Matt Cain, whose motto was "Break down early and often." The Giants ignored this motto for some reason and Cain gave up four runs in the sixth, making the Braves' eventual ninth-inning comeback on a (retches) AJ Pierzynski homer, much more plausible.  The Giants would take the lead again in the 12th, only to lose when Bruce Bochy decided to see if Ryan Vogelsong could be a closer.

Ryan Vogelsong could not be a closer.

The way to victory in this one is to treat Cain like 2015 Jake Peavy and take him out at the first sign of middle-or-late inning trouble. First baserunner. Second, if you're being incredibly generous. The bullpen could have given up fewer than six runs over the next four innings. And then the Giants win! If the Giants had had four more wins at this point, like they would have if they'd just done everything I'm suggesting with hindsight, they would be in first place by a game at the end of August 3. That would have been nice.

August 31

This was the 14-inning game at Dodger Stadium and you remember it you remember it so well the balls flying the hope evaporating like mist we had believed at the start of the game believed like a man in a desert staring at an oasis believed like Chiwetel Ejiofor in Serenity believed like our king was appointed by divine right believed believed and all Bochy had to do was take out Peavy when he was done all Bochy had to do was recognize Peavy's flaws the game was endless endless our lives endless endless the losses endless endless there had been hope once we had believed it could have happened the bullpen shut them down for seven innings they could have they would have the futility endless endless endless.

5 wins! But since this one also counts as a Dodger win, it gets us two games closer to the division. We've picked up six games now! We are motoring.

September 15

Brandon Belt got concussed in this game, and then he made a crucial error that allowed the 7th inning to spiral into disaster. I don't think that's a coincidence. If the dumb concussion had just showed up on the dumb in-game concussion tests and Belt had gotten replaced at first by Buster Posey, or if Belt hadn't gotten the dumb concussion because he hadn't smacked his dumb head on the dumb second baseman while sliding back to the dumb base, the floodgates would have remained closed, and the Giants would have won. 7 games closer!

Of course, the minus side to that is that it might mean we never got to see Bumgarner vs Chapman, but hey, there are playoffs possible. Gotta keep grinding!

September 23

Stupid Padres. Stupid goddamn Padres. Do I even need to explain this one? The Giants had a lead, then the Padres did some stupid Padre shit, and then the Giants lost. You know what happened. Even if you don't remember anything about this game, "stupid Padre shit" is a vivid enough picture in your mind that it suffices.

In my alternate universe, there is no stupid Padre shit and the Giants win. 8 games! Tie division!

October 4

This was the last game of the season. You remember this game. It was a swell lovefest in which the bullpen forgot that if they pitched innings 6-8, they also had to pitch in inning 9. Whoopsie! If the Giants had still been in the race, Bochy almost certainly would have used Santiago Casilla in this game, and he would have been fine and they would have won. Instead we got . . . this. But let's say they use Casilla. Then they win! They win the division on the last day! Hooray, Giants! We are all very proud of you.

It would not have been remarkable if the Giants had won any of those games. It would not even have been remarkable if the Giants had won all of those games; they simply would have been good wins that we never thought about again. This is just a These 8 Games Tell You Everything About The Giants' Season article. They weren't overmatched; their run differential was +69 (nice), which was barely worse than the Dodgers' (+72). But the one-run games killed them.

Well, the injuries really killed them, but once those were done, it was the one-run games. The Giants were better than their record indicated. But to have been better enough to make the playoffs would have been quite the feat.