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Giants lose series to Cardinals, dropping final game 7-5


Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing you have to remember, see, is that the Giants aren't very good. Not as presently constructed. They're about four hitters away from a good lineup, and they're about four pitchers away from a good rotation. And now they've put themselves in a bit of a pickle, where they have to go on the road and sweep the Dodgers -- who are starting Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke -- to have a good shot at the NL West. They can take two of three to get a fair shot. They can lose the series for a long shot. But if they want a good shot, they'll need to have a surprising, memorable, and stunning series.

Okay. Fair enough.

A couple months ago, when the delusions were really flowing, everyone started to take for granted that Chris Heston was an above-average major league pitcher. Hey, me too. The Giants' rotation situation went something like, "Madison Bumgarner, Chris Heston, and we'll figure it out from there." That was a nonsense sentence in February, and it was reality in June. That started to be the new normal. Now it's a nonsense sentence again.

Heston might not be above-average. We'll have the no-hitter on the mantle, sure, and his contributions have helped the Giants be better than they probably had a right to be, but he might be simply okay. He might be worse than okay. If this is the cavalry, well, I'm not sure if you know how to play Battleship. It's almost the last day of August, and the Giants can't really pitch. At least, not against good teams.

To the Giants' credit, they fought back. They scored five runs. When the Giants have scored five runs at AT&T Park over the last five seasons, they're 138-20. Sunday's effort should have been enough to win, and from 2009 through last season, it would have been. Even though the Sacramentoiest hitters in the lineup didn't do a damned thing, the Giants still scored five runs. Marlon Byrd has been an inspired acquisition, and Brandon Belt had a fantastic game. They scored and scored again, and they probably should have won. With a normal team.

This is not a normal team. This is an imbalanced team, a mess of a roster that's completely lopsided in favor of offense, with half of that offense in the infirmary. They have to outdouble other teams to win, and the outdoublers are mostly broken. It all sets up a three-game series in Los Angeles.

Okay. Fair enough.

You can follow this team in a couple ways. The first is to follow them like I followed them in 2009, being so very mad at the world that the Giants were missing the key ingredient that would make them an elite team. I mean, could you imagine this team with the Cardinals' rotation? They would already be so far ahead, we wouldn't even notice Hunter Pence, Joe Panik, and Brandon Crawford being out. Take your time, fellas. Come back when you're ready, because this pitching-fueled juggernaut has everything under control. Because that doesn't exist, though, you can get angry in its absence. This team could be so good with a little health and a little pitching.

The second way to follow them is accept that it's probably not going to happen. The Giants tried to address a serious weakness in the offseason, and they couldn't. Then everyone in the lineup fell down the same flight of stairs, and this is the team we're left with in a pennant race. Kelby Tomlinson was an organizational afterthought at this time last year. Justin Maxwell was almost out of baseball. Ehire Adrianza was hurt, and now he's rusty, at best. Juan Perez was Juan Perez, with all that implies. They're all taking at-bats in close games against excellent teams. It's probably not going to happen.

With that second way to follow the 2015 Giants, though, there's a corollary. Accept that it's not going to happen, but cradle the what-ifs close, so very close, to your bosom. And with this Dodgers series, imagine just how fun it would be for the Giants to sweep and take down Kershaw/Greinke, coming that much closer to contention with a nonsense team. Can you imagine?

That's about all we have, and it'll have to do. The Giants have stumbled into Matt Duffys and good-month Hestons this year, so you can't even complain that much. They're close, actually close, to a postseason race, even though they've given very important innings to Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum, and Matt Cain this year, and they've all been awful. Even with all that, they have a chance. They'll need to have a Brian Johnson kind of series to capitalize, but they have a chance.

They just need to beat the better team in three games, trolling the world, then get healthy.

Okay. Fair enough. We knew that August was going to feel something like this, but the specifics were a little fuzzy. Now they need to get lucky. They've been pretty competent with that for a few years, so I'm not writing anything off yet. Just quietly gasping and rolling my eyes. The first thing you have to remember, see, is that the Giants aren't very good. Not as presently constructed. They're about four hitters away from a good lineup, and they're about four pitchers away from a good rotation.

And yet they still have a slowly dimming, fading chance? Okay. I guess I'll take it. Beat LA, and let Bonds sort them out. The Giants have painted themselves into a corner, but they can still draw a flight of stairs on the wall and climb the ceiling if they're lucky. That chance is probably more than they deserve, but we don't have to give it back.