Oh how quickly expectations change. Had I told you before the season started that the San Francisco Giants would split an eight-game road trip, you would have considered that quite the win. But right now it would feel a little bit lackluster — not a total disappointment, but a mild disappointment. You hoped for better.
You might get better. The Giants can finish the two-city, eight-game trip with a 5-3 record — or hell, even a 6-2 record. But to do so they’ll need to win a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds, after a pair of disappointing losses led to splitting a series with the bottom dwellers of the NL Central, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The more wins the merrier, not just because wins are good, but because the Los Angeles Dodgers await the Giants at the end of the road trip.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Cincinnati Reds
Where: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio
When: Monday (3:40 p.m.), Tuesday (3:40 p.m.), Wednesday (3:40 p.m.) and Thursday (9:35 a.m.)
National broadcasts: Thursday (YouTube)
Where they stand
San Francisco Giants
Record: 24-16, 1st in the NL West
Run differential: +33, 3rd in the NL
Postseason standing: 1st seed
Momentum: 1-game winning streak, 6-4 in their last 10 games
Record: 19-19, 3rd in the NL Central
Run differential: +2, 6th in the NL
Postseason standing: 2 games out of the Wild Card, 2.5 out of the division lead
Momentum: 2-game winning streak, 6-4 in their last 10 games
Season series: Giants lead 2-1
Three Giants to watch
Brandon Crawford: After a slow start that validated some fears that his 2020 performance was a small sample sized outlier, DJ BC RAW has turned the gas all the way up. On a team with Brandon Belt, Mike Yastrzemski, and the rejuvenated duo of Buster Posey and Evan Longoria, Crawford leads the team in home runs, with 9. He’s tied with his fellow namesake for the team lead in runs batted in, with 21. He’s third on the team in wRC+ and OPS+, trailing only Posey and the platooned Darin Ruf, and he’s second in WAR behind Posey. This season is admittedly an even smaller sample size than last season, but Crawford has been an All-Star level shortstop thus far, and it’s beautiful to watch.
Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee: McGee picked up a blown save in the first loss to the Pirates, though admittedly he pitched well and just allowed an inherited runner to score. He then gave up three hits and a walk-off home run in the second loss of the series. He’s still a quite nice reliever, but the Giants are showing Rogers some love in save situations, including in the series finale against Pittsburgh. Both of these pitchers need to be on their best behavior for the bullpen to succeed, and it will be interesting to see if Kapler deploys Rogers in the ninth inning more frequently.
Johnny Cueto: Cueto appears on this list for the second straight series, and for the same reason: can he regain his magic? His line through three starts was 20 innings, 13 hits, 4 walks, 18 strikeouts, and 4 earned runs. Then he hit the Injured List, and returned to a bit of a shellacking: 3 innings, 8 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 5 earned runs. He was much better in his outing against Pittsburgh, but still closer to the rough version than the star version: 4.1 innings, 8 hits, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts, 2 earned runs.
Three Reds to watch
Jesse Winker: The Reds offensive attack has been powered primarily by two players: Nick Castellanos, and Winker. The Giants are sending four right-handed pitchers to the mound in the four-game series so Winker — a lefty — is the hitter to keep your eye on. He’s slashing .344/.400/.602, good for an OPS+ of 160.
Sonny Gray: Count me among the people who wanted the Giants to pursue Gray a few years when his stock was at a low point and many teams wondered if his days as a high quality starter were over. The righty — who opens the series for the Reds — has been sensational this year, with 36 strikeouts in 25.1 innings, and an FIP of 3.37.
Luis Castillo: The former Giants prospect is having a bizarre season. His FIP (4.79) paints a picture of a pitcher who is struggling, but at least treading water. His ERA (7.71) paints a picture of disaster. The last time these two teams faced, the Giants got 7 hits against Castillo in just 2 innings, a pair of which were home runs, to put 4 runs on the board. They’ll try and replicate that success.
Who wins the series?
This poll is closed
Giants win 3-1
Reds win 3-1