Well, let's just dive into this.
|If the Dodgers go …||The Giants' record will need to be at least this to catch them|
Over the last few days, I've written my articles as if the Giants have already been eliminated. A couple people noticed this and made it a point to remind me that, mathematically, the Giants still had a shot. This is true! But, well, math is a jerk. If the Giants don't go on a run of historic proportions, they'll need the Dodgers to have a collapse of historic proportions. There's no middle ground. That's the tyranny of the expiring season -- either the Giants streak into the postseason, or the Dodgers catch fire on the runway.
Hey, either one would be cool with me, but I'll wait until the Giants are eight wins into an eight-game winning streak before starting to feel the pangs of hope again. Until then, I'll continue to write about the Giants as a dead team walking. They're a talented, flawed, and snake-bitten team, and their season is probably over.
Why even bother watching the games, then?
That's the question of the day. It's the Sunday before a holiday. Everyone you know is hanging out in front of tents, grilling tasty things, imbibing of rum and playing games of chance. Why would you possibly watch a Giants game right now?
Because you're daffy, a helpless baseball addict. That's a solid answer. But there's more to it than that. At this point, pretend the Giants are a political candidate, hunkering down in their bunker and licking their wounds. They've already hashed out what they've done wrong -- poor starting pitching, twangy oblique muscles, and other teams hitting them with baseballs -- so now it's time to see what's going right for the team and build on it.
On Sunday, the Giants had things go right for them. It's worth building on them.
Madison Bumgarner wasn't perfect, but it was Coors Field, the taint of the devil, and it's okay to justify a few miscues. Months into the season, he still looks like Bumgarner, which isn't a minor thing. Remember that after the long, long postseason run last year, people were side-eyeing him because he blew past his previous career high in innings pitched.
At no point this season, though, has Bumgarner given us cause for concern. When he gets hit, it's because he bites off too much of the plate, just like aways. But he doesn't get hit often, so it's not something to perseverate on. You watch the Giants right now because you want to see him pitch well, and you want to be reassured that he's going to be one of the best pitchers in baseball for next year, when it really counts.
Matt Duffy keeps hitting. He's just about the most consistent player I remember watching, with super-high peaks and valleys that seem like you're stepping off a matchbox, only to get right back to the peaks again. He's a treasure. You watch baseball right now to make sure that he's still cool. He's still cool. Considering that he jumped straight from Double-A about a year ago, it's hard to imagine a more encouraging rookie season.
Buster Posey hit his hundredth homer of his career on Sunday. All of them were tears from your gammie, watching over you from heaven, and you should treasure them.
Have you noticed the kind of season he's having, though? Of course you have. It looks like this:
The blue dots are flyball outs. I have never seen a hitter have as many warning track outs as Posey has had this season. You watch a meaningless game just to make sure that Posey's still cool, that his warning-track power is a fluke, not the new normal.
You watch to see the future of the bullpen, like Hunter Strickland. You watch to see the present and future of the bullpen, like Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and Santiago Casilla, all of whom are under contract for next season. If the Giants are going to do okay next year, they'll need a blend of young and old. They look like they're on the right track.
Remember when Casilla was the biggest problem on the team? Boy, those were the days.
In a game against a bad team in a bad ballpark on Sunday, the Giants did what they were supposed to. They justified your decision to watch a (probably) meaningless game on a sunny, beautiful afternoon. If the Giants are going to be contenders next year, they'll need to do something like that.
I liked watching that.