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Do the Giants have a surprise in store?

A tough road trip showed that while their talent level is mid, their will is mighty.

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

I think the main takeaway from a few days ago is that the San Francisco Giants felt they should’ve won that series in Atlanta. That belief coupled with the indefatigable play late in the series finale of the Philadelphia series might be enough to suggest the Giants are back?

Or... at worst, not giving up?

Yeah, I think that’s the mode. Right now, they’re out of the playoff picture entirely. Forget about the division. That was lost a month ago, if not the offseason. The Wild Card is well within reach, of course, and it’s entirely possible that after nearly 9 weeks at the bottom of the barrel the Giants’ lineup has started or is about to start turning things around.

Because, folks, they really need to. Now, obviously, they don’t have to, because as long as they’re hitting process benchmarks then, internally, outcomes are irrelevant. But externally, outcomes matter to the people paying (with their time and/or money) to watch the games.

[Werner Herzog voice] I would like to see the offense.

Since Spencer Strider and the bullpen shutout the Giants last Friday, they’ve averaged 4.8 runs again over their past five games. That’s good! Not, like, Atlanta good, but it’s much better than the five games prior to the shutout. And the five games prior to that. And the five games prior to that. And the five games prior to that. And the five games prior to that.

You have to go all the way back to a July 15-July 19 where the Giants averaged as much or more as the 4.8 they’ve averaged over their last five games. That was a 4-1 stretch through Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in games where they scored 8, 4, 11, and 2. This stretch happened nearly a month after their prior stretch, where from June 19-23 they averaged 4.6 runs game at the end of their 10-game winning streak.

So, this is as good as it’s been for the Giants in quite some time and it’s equivalent to the best they’ve been all season. Atlanta is formidable and more likely to bash the Giants’ brains in than not, but at Oracle Park, that likelihood is more in the 52-48 range than the 65-35 range at Truist Park. Yes, I’m basing that on gut. FanGraphs gives Atlanta a 59% chance of winning the Spencer Strider vs. Logan Webb matchup that kicks off this three-game series.

I’m just saying that the Giants might actually be righting the ship to the point that they’re now in a position to surprise. Sure, there’s a very strong chance they’ll win a game in this series, but what righting the ship presupposes is, “what if they could win two?”

It all comes down to the matchups, of course, and whether or not Kyle Harrison makes that start on Sunday; otherwise, it’s Logan Webb and compute the thread (of bullpen guys) against Spencer Strider, Max Fried (whom the Giants looked fine against). Atlanta’s lineup hasn’t changed in just a few games and they took two out of three from the Mets.

Everything I said last week still applies. Atlanta has

  • the most wins of any team (82)
  • the most runs of any team (729)
  • the best run differential of any team (+214)
  • the most powerful lineup (.225 ISO, .499 slugging %)
  • hit more home runs than any other team (240 - 43 more than team #2: the Dodgers)
  • the best hitting group of any team (124 wRC+)
  • the best home record in MLB (44-22)
  • the best road record in the NL, second-best in MLB (38-22)
  • the best record against teams with a .500 or better record (42-26)
  • the second-best team ERA in the NL (3.81)
  • the MLB leader in strikeouts (Spencer Strider: 227, 14.0 K/9)
  • the best outfielder in MLB (Ronald Acuna Jr.: 6.2 fWAR)
  • the best catcher in MLB (Sean Murphy, 4.2 fWAR)
  • the best third baseman in the NL (Austin Riley, 3.7 fWAR)

They’ve also lost just four series on the road all season with one split, which happened in Pittsburgh earlier this month. That followed a series loss in Chicago against the Cubs which itself followed a two-game sweep by the Red Sox in Boston. So... if you wanted to, you could say that Atlanta has struggled on the road of late, but that might be disingenuous, as the week before the Giants came to town they took three of four from the Mets in New York, a series that included a 21-3 drubbing.

But the Giants are not the Mets, even if it feels like it at times. They’re the opposite of despairing right now. Still very much an underdog, but at Oracle Park they might be finally getting strong enough to hang in the fight and throw a few surprise punches.

Series details

Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Atlanta Braves
Where: Oracle Park, San Francisco, California
When: Friday (7:15pm PT), Saturday (1:05 pm PT), Sunday (4:10pm PT)
National broadcasts: Friday — MLB Network simulcast, Saturday — FS1, Sunday — ESPN

Projected starters

Friday: Logan Webb vs. Spencer Strider
Saturday: TBA vs. Max Fried
Sunday: TBA vs. TBA

Where they stand


Record: 82-44 1st in NL East
Run differential: +214, 1st in NL
Postseason standing: Lead NL East by 13.5 games
Momentum: 2-game winning streak; 7-3 in their last 10 games


Record: 66-61, 3rd in NL West
Run differential: +3, 7th in the NL
Postseason standing: 0.5 games out of the Wild Card, 12.5 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game winning streak; 4-6 in their last 10 games

Atlanta players to watch

Ronald Acuna Jr.: 5 of his 11 career hits at Oracle Park have gone for extra bases (2 doubles, 2 home runs, and a triple) and that’s in 10 career games. The Giants held him to 2-for-12 in last week’s series (though with a pretty crucial home run as one of those hits).

Spencer Strider: Look, if Michael Lorenzen can throw a no-hitter against the Nationals and then get shelled by the Nationals in back-to-back starts, then I think it’s possible for him to follow-up a 7-inning, 10 strikeout shutout with an x-inning, x-strikeout giving up a run or more start. And, buddy, if you give up a run or more to the Giants, you’re in trouble. Maybe.

Marcell Ozuna: As the Associated Press notes, “Marcell Ozuna is 18-for-34 with five doubles and five home runs over the past 10 games.”

Eddie Rosario: Besides the game-winning home run last week, he went 7-for-11 in the series with a double thrown in for good measure. His hot streak wasn’t caused by the Giants, it was started by the Yankees. He homered twice in that series sweep which preceded the Giants’ arrival in Atlanta, and over his last six games he’s 11-for-21 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI with 3 walks against 4 strikeouts. His career at Oracle Park: 9 games, .429/.429/.679 (1 home run, 1 triple, 2 doubles).

Giants to watch

Logan Webb (& maybe Kyle Harrison): Like Strider, he’ll be facing the same team two starts in a row, so he’s just as susceptible to a blow up. You might argue that Strider’s strikeout stuff might work like a vaccine that protects him from the worst symptoms of familiaritis and that Webb’s greater need to pitch to contact makes him less protected, but I think it all sort of works out to this: if Webb’s on his game, he’s dominant at Oracle Park: a 2.11 ERA in 85.1 IP (4.63 ERA on the road), and his past three starts at home have come against some pretty good lineups:

July 18 — Red Sox (#6 in runs scored): 7.1 IP 3 ER 0 BB 4 K (1 HR allowed)
August 2 — Diamondbacks (#13 in runs scored): 7 IP 2 ER 1 BB 5 K (0 HR allowed)
August 13 — Rangers (#2 in runs scored): 8.2 IP 1 ER 1 BB 6 K (0 HR allowed)

But his start will be crucial. Even if the Giants lose it, can he save the bullpen?

I have Kyle Harrison as an and because it’s unclear if he’ll start — but these two starters figure to be anchor figures because it’s very easy to imagine the game getting out of hand if Atlanta’s lineup is on fire and if the Giants have any shot it’ll come down to quality innings from whoever’s supposed to handle them in bulk.

Wade Meckler & Austin Slater: Both of them had 2-hit games in the Phillies finale and they both used every cell of their bodies to get the Giants a win. I don’t know if players can turn around their seasons with one game, but Wednesday had to be a confidence boost and I’m curious to see if either of them can keep it going over the weekend since they’ll both have opportunities.

Joc Pederson & Thairo Estrada: Pederson had a .901 OPS after the Giants swept the Dodgers, and since then, his hitting has mirrored the entire group’s — he’d just fallen off a cliff, down to a season-low .747 on August 15th. But would you look at that? Over the last five games, he’s hitting .500/.643/.900, coinciding with the entire group’s offensive uptick.

Meanwhile, since coming back from the IL, Thairo Estrada has been hitting roughly as good as he was in April and May, when it looked like he could be an All-Star.

August: .313/.338/.433
April & May: .301/.345/.466

He has 2 walks against 16 strikeouts, though, and that’s bad.

Prediction time


Giants vs. Atlanta - How will it go?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Giants sweep
    (33 votes)
  • 13%
    Atlanta sweeps
    (31 votes)
  • 33%
    Atlanta wins series
    (78 votes)
  • 39%
    Giants win series
    (94 votes)
236 votes total Vote Now