The low point of this brief San Francisco Giants 2020 season — the low point thus far, I should clarify, while making an anxious face — came when the Giants hosted the Oakland A’s in mid-August.
The Giants had just come off a brutal 10-game road trip that did not go well, but they were still within shouting distance of being competitive. They just needed to do well against a very good A’s team.
In the first game they jumped out to a 6-0 lead, and took a 7-2 advantage into the ninth inning. They lost.
In the second game they took a 6-3 lead into the ninth inning. They lost.
In the third game they said to heck with this stupid team, series, and sport, and lost 15-3.
Just like that, the Giants were 8-15, with Fangraphs giving them a 4.6% chance at making the postseason.
The Giants now seek revenge, and that number has risen to 70.4%.
If you’re looking for reasons to feel optimistic, I present you one: those three games against Oakland are the only three games this year that I haven’t watched.
Make of that what you will.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland Athletics
Where: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California
When: Friday (6:40 p.m.), Saturday (1:10 p.m.), and Sunday (1:10 p.m.)
National broadcasts: Saturday (MLB Network, out of market only), and Sunday (ESPN, out of market only)
Where they stand
San Francisco Giants
Record: 25-24, third place in the NL West
Run differential: +5, fifth in the MLB West
Postseason standing: Sole possession of the first Wild Card in the NL
Current momentum: Won two in a row, 7-3 in their last 10
Record: 31-19, first place in the AL West
Run differential: +56, third in the MLB West
Postseason standing: Third seed in the AL
Current momentum: Won one in a row, 6-4 in their last 10
Season series: A’s lead 3-0 with a +14 run differential
Three Giants to watch
Darin Ruf: I mentioned in Thursday’s recap that Ruf was the perfect signing for a season in which teams get 28 players on the active roster (even if the Giants didn’t know they’d get that when they signed him). Ruf and Alex Dickerson have essentially been platooning left field, often swapping places early in a game if a pitcher is removed.
As such, Ruf only has 20 plate appearances all year against right-handed pitchers (though it’s worth noting that he’s doing very well in those 20 appearances). He’s there to mash lefties, and he’s doing that job beautifully. He’s also caught fire of late, going 8-18 since Sept. 2, with 3 home runs and 3 doubles. The A’s are scheduled to use two lefties against the Giants, so Ruf will get his chance.
Logan Webb: Webb didn’t do well in his start against the A’s in August, allowing 3 hits and 5 walks in 4.1 innings. He’s been hot and cold all year, but still one of the best pitchers on the Giants. He gets the ball in the opener and has a chance to set the tone.
Joey Bart: Yes, I know I keep putting Bart here, so sue me. The Giants offense seems to have settled into a place of being reliably good (can that really be so?), and if Bart can add to that by providing some power at the back of the lineup, that could make a huge difference.
Three A’s to watch
Mike Minor: The A’s acquired Minor from the Texas Rangers at the deadline, and his first two games with his new team didn’t go well: 4.1 innings, 5 hits, 2 walks, and 6 earned runs. But his third and most recent start was a 2-hit, 7-inning shutout against the Seattle Mariners, so he has some momentum. Ultimately the lefty has had a bad year after an All-Star campaign a season ago, and the Giants will get to take a run at him on Sunday.
Jesús Luzardo: Luzardo hasn’t been great this year, but the 22-year old is still one of the top prospects in baseball. The Giants have hit lefties well all year long, so it will be a compelling battle on Saturday.
Robbie Grossman: With Matt Chapman injured, much of the A’s offensive burden falls on the shoulders of the switch-hitting Grossman, who is having a breakout year in his age-31 season. More than half of Grossman’s hits have been for extra bases this year.
Best case/worst case
Best case scenario: The Giants can do to the A’s what was done to them a month ago. They have it in them. It won’t capsize the A’s like it nearly capsized the Giants, but San Francisco is throwing Logan Webb, Kevin Gausman, Johnny Cueto, and a hot offense at three iffy pitchers. A sweep that puts the Giants in great position is on the table.
Worst case scenario: We’ve already seen it!
The smart and sensible prediction is to take the A’s winning 2-1. But what’s the fun in predictions if they’re always smart and sensible? I’m taking Giants 2-1.