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Series preview: Giants vs. Padres

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This series is important!

SFChronicleVirusBaseball Santiago Mejia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants just had a six-game home set against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners. With the end of the season right around the corner, it was imperative to the Giants’ postseason hopes that they do well against those bad teams.

After dropping the first game, things looked a tiny bit bleak. And then they rattled off five straight wins.

And now they face a very good team: the San Diego Padres.

It’s go time.


The details

Who: San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres
Where: Petco Park, San Diego, California
When: Thursday (6:10 p.m.), Friday (6:10 p.m.), Saturday (6:10 p.m.) and Sunday (1:10 p.m.)
National broadcasts: Sunday (MLB Network, out of market only)


Where they stand

San Francisco Giants

Record: 23-21, third place in the NL West
Run differential: +10, fifth in the MLB West
Postseason standing: Sole possession of the first Wild Card, number 7 seed
Current momentum: Won five in a row, 8-2 in their last 10

San Diego Padres

Record: 28-17, second place in the NL West
Run differential: +65, second in the MLB West
Postseason standing: Number 4 seed
Current momentum: Won four in a row, 8-2 in their last 10


Three Giants to watch

Brandon Crawford: Crawford caught fire in August, and suddenly went from having a difficult season to having one of the best offensive years of his life. He’s hit another rough patch, which wasn’t helped by the fact that the Giants have been facing a lot of lefties. That put him in unfavorable matchups, and often left him on the bench while Daniel Robertson got a start.

As such, he’s had just four starts since Sept. 2, and in that time has hit 2-15 with no extra-base hits, and just 1 walk (his at-bats have been good though). Robertson has been optioned and the Padres are scheduled to throw four righties at the Giants, so this is a golden opportunity for Crawford, who still has his best OPS+ (105) since 2016.

Brandon Belt: Like his fellow Brandon, Belt has cooled off lately. In his last five games he’s hitting 3-14 with 1 home run and 4 walks, which ... is still notably above average, but ice cold relative to what he’d been doing the few weeks prior.

He’s been one of the best hitters in all of baseball this season, he’s going up against a string of righties, and the ball should be flying a little bit in San Diego. He’s got a chance to be a one-man wrecking crew.

The entire bullpen: Gabe Kapler is still trying to figure out which buttons to hit with the bullpen, and lately it’s been working well. The relievers are well-rested, and they’re vital for this series. They’ve been pitching well lately, and if they maintain that — and Kapler continues to deploy them smartly — that could be the difference maker.


Three Padres to watch

Fernando Tatis Jr: With all due respect to the Giants own Mike Yastrzemski, Tatis has been the best player in all of baseball this year. At the age of 21. While playing with pizzaz and joyous energy. The Giants biggest challenge is slowing him down; your biggest challenge is suppressing a smile when he inevitably does something that hurts the Giants.

Chris Paddack: Paddack has been all over the place this season, which shouldn’t be surprising since he’s still a prospect. Here are his last five starts:

Aug. 13 — 6 earned runs in 3 innings
Aug. 19 — 1 earned run in 6 innings
Aug. 25 — 6 earned runs in 5 innings
Aug. 30 — 0 earned runs in 6 innings (at Coors Field!)
Sept. 5 — 4 earned runs in 4.2 innings

He gets the ball for the series opener, and has the chance to beat the Giants all on his own. He’s also given up 10 home runs in just 47.1 innings, so the Giants have a great chance to knock him around.

Mike Clevinger: The Padres made a huge number of moves at the deadline, and perhaps none was larger than acquiring Clevinger, a right-handed pitcher who’s scheduled to pitch the series finale. Clevinger has had an up-and-down 2020, but in 2019 he averaged more than 12 strikeouts per nine innings, with a sub-2.50 FIP.


Best case/worst case

Best case scenario: We’re at the point in the season where it’s less important for the Giants to play well and more important for them to just find a way to win. If they managed to take this series they would be very much in the driver’s seat for a spot in the postseason. Even a split, while playing good ball, would have everyone feeling confident.

Worst case scenario: Dropping the series 3-1 — mixed with their Wild Card foes stringing together wins — would put the Giants in a very high-pressure situation heading into next week.


Prediction

I’m a coward so I’m taking the easy way out and predicting a split.