Let’s start with the obvious: This is very important series for the San Francisco Giants.
They have eight games remaining, with this series against the Colorado Rockies representing half of them. And then it gets a bit harder, with four against the San Diego Padres.
The Giants are battling for one of the Wild Card spots in the National League, and at this point going .500 the rest of the way probably isn’t going to be enough. The Giants need to find a way to get more than 30 wins, and this is the series to put that in action.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Colorado Rockies
Where: Oracle Park, San Francisco, California
When: Monday (6:45 p.m.), Tuesday (6:45 p.m.), Wednesday (6:45 p.m.) and Thursday (12:45 p.m.)
National broadcasts: Monday and Thursday (MLB Network, out of market only, available through fuboTV)
Where they stand
San Francisco Giants
Record: 26-26, third place in the NL West
Run differential: +5, fifth in the MLB West
Postseason standing: In a three-way tie with the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers for the second NL Wild Card spot, a half game behind the Philadelphia Phillies for the first NL Wild Card spot
Current momentum: Won one in a row, 5-5 in their last 10
Record: 23-29, fourth place in the NL West
Run differential: -65, ninth in the MLB West
Postseason standing: 3 games out, but not yet eliminated
Current momentum: Won one in a row, 3-7 in their last 10
Season series: Rockies lead 4-2, Giants lead the run differential +10
Three Giants to watch
The Brandons: I’m lumping Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt together here, as they’ve so often been lumped in their careers. Both franchise legends entered the season on a downward trajectory, and it seemed that both might get relegated to platoon status.
Instead, they’ve rebounded to having the best hitting seasons of their careers: .283/.352/.483 for Crawford, and .296/.409/.576 for Belt (that’s career-bests in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage for both).
If the Rockies keep the rotation they used last week, they’ll be starting a right-handed pitcher in three of the four games. It’s time for the Brandons to add to their legend.
Johnny Cueto: It hasn’t been the year that Johnny Cueto was hoping for, but he’s shown some signs at plenty of points along the way. He’s scheduled to start the series opener, but he was also scheduled to pitch over the weekend, before hip soreness kept pushing his start back.
He hasn’t pitched in eight days, and he didn’t pitch well his last time out. It’s a big start for him.
Mike Yastrzemski: Yastrzemski is still day-to-day with a strained right calf, after suffering a mild injury on Thursday. He may not play at all this series, or he might get in early. He’s had a tremendous season, and the Giants really need him.
Three Rockies to watch
Nolan Arenado: Arenado is a certified Giants killer, and with the Rockies offense struggling in a big way this season he’s one of the few players capable of making things miserable for Giants pitchers. He’s also dealing with a shoulder injury that has his season in jeopardy.
I certainly don’t wish injury on Arenado (or anyone), but it’s a situation for Giants fans to monitor. If Arenado can’t play, that’s a bummer ... and it’s a bummer that makes the Giants jobs a good bit easier.
Update: Arenado is out.
The Rockies placed Nolan Arenado on the 10-day injured list. The #SFGiants won’t see him this week.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) September 21, 2020
Trevor Story: Story has been the Rockies best player this season, and that’s been apparent when Colorado has faced the Giants. The shortstop is 6-19 with a home run, a double, and 2 walks in the season series.
Ryan Castellani: I always enjoy when the Giants play young prospects, even if those prospects aren’t that highly rated. This is the first year in the big leagues for the right-handed Castellani, the number 17 prospect in the Rockies system, per Fangraphs.
The Giants have already seen him once, and he did well: 2 innings, 2 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs, and 2 strikeouts. But that was his only relief appearance this year, and he’s struggled in his role as a starter, with 21 walks to 22 strikeouts in 36.2 innings. He’s scheduled to start on Wednesday, and the Giants need to be ready to pounce.
Best case/worst case
Best case scenario: The Giants are at a point where they can’t just keep splitting series. They need to win one. Winning the series 3-1 puts them in position to split the Padres series and still have a good shot at the postseason. Sweeping the series likely puts the Giants in the driver’s seat for the playoffs. Both are possible against a bad Rockies team.
Worst case scenario: I don’t think it’s likely that the Rockies significantly outplay the Giants, but they can certainly get funky and win the series. Doing so would put the Giants in a position where they might need a four-game sweep against one of baseball’s best teams. Not ideal.
The Giants are better than the Rockies, by a sizable margin. They’re also 16-9 at home, while Colorado is 11-11 on the road. And the Giants postseason hopes are much more feasible, so there’s a case to be made that they’re playing for more right now.
I think that’s enough to get it done. 3-1 Giants.