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Giants-Diamondbacks Series Preview: No, seriously, this is it

The Giants’ process runs up against the calendar as they face off against a team that has always been better.

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Chicago Cubs v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Most San Francisco Giants fan have (in my view, correctly) given up on the team’s pursuit of the third Wild Card spot and today and tomorrow we’ll see if the team has given up, too.

Now, there’s a degree of pedantry surrounding teams and their “chances.” Mathematically, the Giants could win all of their remaining games to take any of the three remaining Wild Card spots. The only thing that isn’t a possibility is the NL West title (as the Dodgers finally clinched on Saturday); therefore, it’s incorrect to only focus on a pursuit of the third Wild Card and why are you always saying that, Bryan? Isn’t it just the Wild Card?

Well, it’s a strata thing. The Giants aren’t good enough for anything better than the participation trophy Wild Card slot. Ah, but once they get into the postseason tournament, anything can happen! Yours is a narrow view! It’s a thought I see bubble up on here and elsewhere a lot, that the same dynamics that applied to previous iterations of the MLB Wild Card playoff format carryover to this new one. I mean, sure, the Giants could advance out of the Wild Card round. Is this a good team to go deeper than that?

We’re constantly examining the Wild Card and the playoffs through the lens of how far the Dodgers go every year despite being “the best team” and the “anything can happen” really just seems to focus on “The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals won it all despite just an 83-win season.” So, it’s a lottery ticket mentality. Okay, fine, sure, the Giants still have a shot at winning the lottery. That’s a completely reasonable view of the team. Flawless thinking.

One time in my sophomore year of college, I woke up at 4am to write a 5-page essay that was due at my 8am class. It’s not for any fun reason. I was depressed and frequently finding it hard to sleep, and when I did sleep it’d be for 12+ hours. It was a rough go, but I was still scraping by.

I remember running down the hill holding out the pages so that the ink could dry before handing it in. I got an A on that paper, and yes, I absolutely used that experience as evidence that my margin for error was much greater than it was. Of course, it wasn’t and I had to make a bunch of personal adjustments to get on track, but thinking I was sharp enough to think my way out of a self-inflicted jam... well, I see a lot of Depressive Me in the 2023 Giants right now.

Now, most baseball teams are doomed every season. That’s just the nature of the game. Some teams are like ghosts that don’t know they’re dead, though, and I think the Giants are one of those teams. That series loss in Colorado should’ve been their 4am wake up and this two-game series is the 5-page essay that’s due, but when I look at them and then look at the team they’re up against, I don’t like their chances.

Starting pitching-wise, it’s scheduled to be Zac Gallen & Merrill Kelly versus Alex Cobb & Logan Webb: their best versus the Giants’ best. Offensively, it’s not as embarrassing to Arizona as I thought it would be comparing their lineup to the Giants’. On the season, Arizona has a team wRC+ of 98. The Giants are at 96. Arizona has scored 698 runs while the Giants have scored 650. The Giants’ pitching has been better, too: a 4.01 team ERA and 13.5 fWAR over Arizona’s 4.58 and 11.7.

September has seen an uptick in the Giants’ offense, though! They’ve scored 70 runs, which is just 23rd in MLB, but it’s not last! Arizona has scored 71 runs! They also have a team wRC+ of 87 — the Giants are at 112. 12% better than the league average over the last two and a half weeks versus 13% below. Hey, look at that! An additional edge!

The Giants also haven’t had an implosive month this season like Arizona did. They were 8-16 in July after three winning months to open the season (15-12 in April, 17-10 in May, 16-11 in June). They rebounded a bit in August (12-15) and they’re 10-7 here in September. They’ve already had their 4am wakeup call, and we might be seeing them in their running down the hill trying to dry the ink phase.

The Giants, of course, haven’t had many winning months in the Farhan Zaidi era. Take away 2021 (which we should for the purposes of evaluating where the franchise is at in terms of its rebuild), and they’ve had just six of them since 2019 (two each season — again, except 2021 which doesn’t matter). They’re 6-10 right now, with seven left against the Dodgers and three against the Padres after these two in Arizona. 9-3 gives them a winning month. (yes, I’m factoring in the spillover into October as part of September, just like we do March/April).

But, of course, they don’t need to go 9-3. They just need to win enough games to clinch that lottery ticket. It’s just funny to think that the odds being overwhelmingly against a team get tsk-tsk’d while probabilities based on individual player performance are sacrosanct. The Giants have really f’d around all season and they’ve now been shoved into the find out zone.

This really is it. If the Giants split this series, they’d hold the tiebreaker (subscription required) over every Wild Card competitor except the Cubs. Even if they’re swept, they’ll still be mathematically eligible for the postseason. Given all those “well, technicallys” I think it’d just be easier if the Giants won all their games and remove the mystery. They’ve procrastinated for a myriad of reasons, but now they have to write the thing they’ve been putting off.

Series details

Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Where: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
When: Tuesday (6:40pm PT), Wednesday (12:40pm PT)
National broadcasts: Wednesday — MLB Network simulcast

Projected starters

Tuesday: Alex Cobb vs. Zac Gallen
Wednesday: Logan Webb vs. Merrill Kelly

Where they stand


Record: 79-72, 2nd in NL West
Run differential: -26 (9th in NL)
Postseason standing: eliminated from division title, 3rd Wild Card by +0.5 games
Momentum: 3-game winning streak; 6-4 in last 10 games


Record: 76-74, 3rd in NL West
Run differential: -14 (7th in NL)
Postseason standing: eliminated from division title, 2 games out of 3rd Wild Card
Momentum: 1-game winning streak; 6-4 in last 10 games

Diamondbacks to watch

Lourdes Gurriel Jr.: When you look at the Diamondbacks’ team offensive output for this month, you see how it hasn’t worked for the team but there are a few individuals really propping up the whole operation. Gurriel’s 4 home runs lead the team this month, and that goes with 13 RBI (also #1) and a .300 ISO (64 plate appearances). He also leads the team with 20 hits in the month.

Ketel Marte: The senior-most Diamondback has upped his game in the season’s final month with a pair of homers, a pair of doubles, and a pair of triples. He’s really picked it up (.293/.369/.552) after a disastrous August (.179/.275/.326) and looks set to have one of the three best seasons of his 9-season career when it’s over.

Gabriel Moreno: He’s missed enough time that he’s probably not going to threaten Sean Murphy for NL Gold Glove at catcher, but he’s having a really nice season overall, and since returning from the IL on August 13th, he’s hit .333/.396/.563 (.959 OPS) in 96 PA — certainly enough to put him in the Gold Glove conversation. I mention that IL stint because in the 18 games that he missed, Arizona went 4-14. In July, the team’s “drove into a ditch month,” he really didn’t play very much, starting just 7 and appearing in 4 more. They were 5-6 in those games. When he’s in the lineup, they’re a real force.

Tommy Pham: The Giants got to face him in his first game with Arizona after coming over from the Mets and hung an 0-for-3 on him, but in his last 31 games with the Diamondbacks, he’s demonstrated a complete adjustment to his new squad, hitting .268/.319/.488 (.807), much more in line with his season performance. Really since he slapped the nonsense out of Joc Pederson, he’s done nothing but rise above the Giants. That slap sort of sent the 2022 Giants into a tailspin and Joc Pederson’s major league career has stalled out. Knocking the Giants out of the postseason — I KNOW NOT MATHEMATICALLY — will really complete his revenge arc.

Zac Gallen & Merrill Kelly: Gallen’s 3.90 career ERA against the Giants (12 starts) and Kelly’s 3.48 (17 starts) makes the situation feel a little less daunting. Gallen, of course, is an All_Star this season and was a Cy Young frontrunner for a decent chunk of it, but his second half hasn’t been all that Ace-y: 4-5 (Arizona 4-8), 4.24 ERA (4.25 FIP) 74.1 IP 74 K 18 BB .745 OPS against. He gave up 6 earned runs in his last start (against the Mets) and 5 earned against the Orioles on September 3rd, but sandwiched in between? He pitched a shutout against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He’s 1-0 in 2 starts against the Giants this season (3.29 ERA); meanwhile, Kelly also got blown up by the Mets (7 earned runs) and three starts prior to that he gave up 7 earned to the Dodgers. Sandwiched in between? 12.2 IP against the Rockies and Cubs and just 2 earned runs allowed. The Giants scored 7 off him (5 earned), but that was back on June 24th, a different Giants team, vibes-wise, than the one we have now.

Giants to watch

Alex Cobb: Here’s hoping his hip is mostly healed, because they really need a good start from him. He has a 2.03 ERA against Arizona in 2 starts this season (13.1 IP), but his home/road split is more alarming than Logan Webb’s: 1.95 versus 5.26. His start in Arizona on May 11th in Arizona (7.1 IP 0 runs allowed) has been his only scoreless road start so far in 2023. Not only has Cobb been a home run giver upper machine (trademark: me), he’s allowed nearly three times as many runs (44) than at home (16). But he’s their second-best starting pitcher, so, just gotta go with what they’ve got.

Logan Webb: It’s been said (by me) that the only way the Giants can win is by pitching shutouts. Webb gives them their best shot. His last four road starts have ranged from “not bad” to “great!”:

5.2 IP 1 ER @ Angels
6 IP 4 ER @ Braves
6.2 IP 3 ER @ Cubs
8 IP 1 ER @ Rockies

His home/road split suggests that it’s unlikely he’ll pitch a shutout: 2.37 home/4.30 road. Still, if he can limit the Diamondbacks — especially their best hitters for this month — he’ll do what every Ace does: give his team a chance to win.

Camilo Doval: I wrote about how he’s definitely slumping right now. There very well could be some other issues going on, but until we get some more reporting on that, it’s enough to say his velocity is down, he’s staying away from the slider, and he seems to have chosen to be unconcerned by baserunners — which he’s allowing more frequently than before. I haven’t mentioned Dbacks star Corbin Carroll until just right now because he hasn’t hit quite as well as his teammates this month (.704 OPS), but he leads the team in stolen bases with 6. Pham has 4; and, well, you can just see an 8th or 9th inning unraveling because of Arizona’s running game — just as much as Doval uncorking a wild pitching or giving up a home run on his slider. I think it’s reasonable to pin the Giants meager Wild Card hopes to the performance of the guy who was their best reliever for half the season. Logical, even.

Prediction time


Giants vs. Diamondbacks - how will it go?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Giants sweep
    (37 votes)
  • 29%
    Giants swept
    (41 votes)
  • 44%
    A split!
    (63 votes)
141 votes total Vote Now