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A Giants fan guide to the 2023 Wild Card series

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MLB: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive season San Francisco Giants fans will watch the MLB postseason from a distance. A small blessing—I still remember the feeling in my stomach after Cody Bellinger punched a single into center in game 5 of the 2021 NLDS. I don’t miss that confused medley of emotional and physical hurt as I tried to rip my hair out, hug my stomach and cradle my head at the same time. That night my wife woke up to me tossing and turning, drenched in sweat, muttering: too many sliders, too many sliders. It was March before I could bring myself to re-watch the checked swing call. Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, and sometimes it’s better, or just dang pleasant, to indulge in something without having your guts and sanity messily knotted up in its outcome.

Of course, I’m a slug of a man when it comes to sports and with the Dodgers in the postseason, I find myself caring more about their ill-will than my own well-being. Both last year’s and this year’s guide can be summed up succinctly: any team that can beat LA. If that be your North Star, your guiding principle—no judgments. Still it doesn’t hurt to balance out some of that negativity and try rooting for something.

Here are my thoughts on how San Francisco fans should navigate the first round of the postseason.

American League — Texas Rangers (5) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4)

This is an obvious one. Every San Francisco fan should be pulling for our ol’ commander in chief Bruce Bochy to earn his 5th World Series berth in his coaching career and 4th championship.

Retirement obviously didn’t stick, and Bochy is back and managing in Dallas while his predecessor in San Francisco is out of a job. Maybe Boch-Coach will follow in Kapler’s footsteps and finally earn a Manager of the Year Award.

The only wrinkle to this is that I implemented a rule in last year’s guide that said you should never root for a team that the Giants played against in the World Series. I think it’s a good rule, and if you want to stick with it, good on ya, but good rules generally provide some leeway. Bochy is certainly worthy of an exception.

My pick: Bochy by way of Texas

MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

American League — Toronto Blue Jays (6) vs. Minnesota Twins

Another no-brainer.

Brandon Belt has returned to October baseball serving as the Blue Jays’ designated hitter and sometimes 1B behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. His first season away from the Bay, and he’s posted a 2.0 WAR season with an .859 OPS (136 OPS +) with 19 HRs over 339 ABs. Not to compare or anything, but Joc Pederson’s .764 OPS (111 OPS+) with 15 homers and a 0.6 WAR cost the Giants twice as much. It absolutely made sense at the time to let Belt go, but I miss him and I’m glad he getting the opportunity to show us all up.

Gorgeous jerseys, impressive baseball lineage with Kevin Gausman starting game 1 and the Captain—I’m team Toronto. Minnesota never hurt anybody—the Giants kind of spurned Carlos Correa and Donovan Solano is also on their roster, but with Brandon Crawford saying goodbye on Sunday, we’re all in a pretty sensitive place and just need more Brandon content.

My pick: O’ captain, my captain

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

National League — Arizona Diamondbacks (6) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (3)

Okay from an objective perspective, Arizona is a more exciting baseball team to watch than the Brewers. An athletic, young roster with an incredible outfield anchored by Corbin Carroll—I imagine the majority of baseball fans want to see this team make a deep postseason run.

Unfortunately, this guide is the furthest thing from objective, and a very real hell for the likes of Michael Conforto, Pederson and Mike Yastrzemski is watching from the batter’s box as Alek Thomas runs down line drives for all of eternity.

You can not root for a National League West team, unless—a good rule with leeway—it’s a match-up against the Dodgers. If life’s cruel hand decides to twist that knife, so be it—the winner of this series plays LA. Madison Bumgarner was relieved of his duties in Phoenix but Evan Longoria is still putzing around. Plus, it might be nice to actually have an excuse to cheer on such a thrilling brand of baseball.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Still, our job as Giants fans is to root for the Brewers here. Need help: Craig Counsell, kind-of, in like a goofy/New Balance-wearing dad way. He’s a local Wisconsin kid and it’d be a nice story if he brought them their first championship. Duane Kuiper is from Wisconsin too—though the team he rooted for was the Braves when they played in Milwaukee.

If all that doesn’t do it for you...try pity?

The Brewers had one of the best pitching tandems in baseball with Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, but word got out today that Woodruff will be out for the Wild Card series with a shoulder injury and might be shut down for the entire postseason. Milwaukee does have some impressive pitching depth which might help them weather this storm, but it’s oddly reminiscent of the injury news from Devin Williams on the eve of the playoffs in 2021. Kind of feel for those guys…they’ve been halfway decent for a stretch now, it’d be nice to see those mid-westerners make a push.

My pick: Brew Crew

National League — Miami Marlins (5) vs Philadelphia Phillies (4)

This is the hardest match-up so far. There’s not much to go on from a San Francisco perspective, and the series winner’s reward is they get to play the Atlanta Braves.

The Giants- Marlins season series was split 3-3—but I do remember a rather rude home run hit by Jorge Soler off Logan Webb that I didn’t particularly care for. Miami is a flashy team that certainly has some flair…Joey Wendle, no batting gloves, wild man!

MLB: Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

As for the Phillies, the Giants topped them 4 games to 2, but in their most recent match-up in late August, Philly took 2 out of 3, welcoming Kyle Harrison to the big leagues with a 2-run homer from Bryce Harper before Trea Turner delivered a walk-off single in the 9th. A pretty unhelpful turn of events in terms of the Giants postseason chances. So, actually, yeah…screw the Phillies!

My pick: Go Fish!