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Giants drop game, series, road trip ... still gain game on Dodgers?

I don't know. It's almost funny until you realize they could have been in first place.

pretty much
pretty much
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants approached the road trip of death and said, "We leave you offerings, road trip of death. Please do not death us." And the road trip of death replied, "We will not death you totally and completely. Just a little bit, ye, so you know what death tastes like." And then the Giants locked their keys in the car and death poured hot sauce in their shorts.

However! There's a twist. The Dodgers were also on a road trip of death. They literally have a $300 million roster -- literally! -- which is like the most expensive Yankees team and the most expensive Giants team from five years ago mashed together, and they're still having normal-team problems. The Giants are still in a race. They still have a shot to win the National League West.

Or, to dumb it down: When the Giants left on this road trip, they were 2½ games back. They're now 1½ games back.

You can look at that a couple of different ways. If they didn't play like bonerthumbs, they would be a game or two up on that $300 million juggernaut. Oh, goodness, the panic in that Dodgers clubhouse, with the Diamondbacks creeping up the rear and the hated rivals in first place.

Or you could look at it like the Giants have a better chance to win the division than any other second-place team in the National League. They're closer than I thought they would be toward the end of August, at least. They fell up the stairs on this road trip and ended up closer to first place.

The Giants have spent a month playing the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates. Those are all stupidly talented teams. The Cubs are tooting out ex-teenagers who can play baseball, and they have depth in the rotation. The Cardinals are blood alchemists and they will pay for their sins in time. The Pirates are enjoying the karmic interest from their low-yield karmic savings bonds from two decades ago.

And at no point have I thought, whoa, these guys are unbeatable. Better? Sure, occasionally, maybe often, especially in the early innings. Deeper? All the time. Never, though, did I lament that everything was hopeless because the Giants were facing a super team from the outer reaches of the universe.

Part of that has to do with the Giants missing Hunter Pence and Joe Panik. The Giants are built to score more than the other teams. Mike Leake is a pitcher who works best when he does competent things and his team scores behind him. He's matched up with the right group of fellers. Except the Giants have 20 percent of the lineup gone, which screws up everything.

The Giants were 9-for-63 on the road trip with runners in scoring position. That's a .143 average. That's what Tim Lincecum is hitting this year. Every time the Giants had a runner in scoring position this trip, Tim Lincecum hit. Fourteen percent of the time, it's hilarious, ha ha, look at that little pitcher getting an RBI! And the other 86 percent of the time, it's like, "Say, that baseball player probably isn't good at hitting baseballs." It's maddening. And there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Take a couple of at-bats from this game, for example. In the fifth, the Giants were finally on the board. They scratched a run out, and there were two runners on for Andrew Susac with one out. That's when Francisco Liriano threw the two best pitches of his entire freaking career to Susac, getting him into an 0-2 count. The first pitch was a fastball on the corner of the ESPN K-Zone (which I still like, come at me). The second pitch was a nasty, diving slider in the same spot. Barry Bonds would have struggled with those pitches. The hell is Susac supposed to do with them?

Then, after that one at-bat, Liriano pitched as erratically as he had all evening. So it goes.

Two innings later, Brandon Crawford worked a seven-pitch at-bat against Arquímedes Caminero and drove a ball that was four feet away from being a homer. It was a ground-rule double, and no runs scored in the inning. This is how the entire road trip went.

At the same time, the Giants have allowed five solo homers since the last homer they've hit. Maybe they should hit more homers.

At the same time, Ryan Vogelsong walked in a run and didn't know where the ball was going at all in the first inning.

Maybe the Giants just aren't that good? The part in the last sentence about "Vogelsong" is a bit of a hint. Except I still believe in this offense, in the cumulative effect of this offense, when healthy, and I'm thrilled that the Dodgers didn't use this opportunity to pull away.

If you're worried about their ability to win Sunday night games, think of it like this: There are dozens -- hundreds? thousands? -- of Cowboys fans screaming, "JUST END THIS STUPID GAME AND GIVE ME COWBOY HIGHLIGHTS" when the Giants are playing their stupid Sunday night games, and they keep going. The games never end, and the Cowboys fans scream "WHO CARES ABOUT BASEBALL, JUST GET TO THE FOOTBALL HIGHLIGHTS."

The Giants are good about screwing up the Sunday nights of those people. Think of it like that.