September 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) argues a call with umpire Mike Winters in the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The San Francisco Giants just got an ‘ol knuckle sandwich right to the stomach this past series from the hated Los Angeles Dodgers. With the NL West playoff race now within reach, the Dodgers did what they needed to do, and they couldn’t have swept the Giants in a better fashion. It’s one thing to be shutout and flat outplayed, but it’s another to lose three games by a total of three runs.
But hey, maybe it’s not such a bad thing that the games down in Chavez Ravine were so tight and heartbreaking. Maybe losing in extra innings Monday night, losing in the 8th inning on Tuesday night, and losing to a dominant Clayton Kershaw, arguably the greatest left handed pitcher since Randy Johnson, Wednesday night by just one run can be a good thing.
Lets take a hypothetical track and field example: Runner #1 and Runner #2 run three sprints, and all
Aug 29, 2015; Beijing, China; Usain Bolt runs the anchor leg on the Jamaica 4 x 100m relay that won in 37.36 during the IAAF World Championships in Athletics at National Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
three of those sprints become “photo finishes.” Moments later, the judge rules that all three of the close races were awarded to Runner #1 by a hair. At first, Runner #2 is more than likely going to be pissed off, heartbroken, pessimistic, and confused on what to do next. At this point in time is when individuals and teams are defined because they have two choices:
1. Settle for being second-best, maintain your skills, and start working for next season.
2. Don’t settle for anything. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, work your butt off, overcome adversity, and, ultimately, beat Goliath. Do not wait. Take on the challenge. Attack now!
Just look at the Giants, who are now 6.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West and 6.5 games back of the Chicago Cubs for the second Wild Card spot. The Giants have absolutely nothing to lose. They have won three World Series in the past five years, other teams have the utmost respect for the organization, and the fans believe in what they are doing. One season of missing the playoffs is not going to define who they are.
Woah, Woah. Take a step back. Do the past five years really matter anymore? Although they are nice thoughts, it ticks me off when I read about how Giants fans should not fear because we have been here before in previous seasons. No! By no means do I mean forget about those three rings, but this is not 2010, this is not 2012, and this is surely not 2014. This is 2015 and there is still time to put up a fight. Right now, we are David and, not just the Dodgers or Cubs, but all other teams are Goliath. Each and every team that the Giants play from here on out stand in the way of their return to the playoffs.
The past 13-16 month of August was tough to wrap our heads around, but the Giants have had the night and day to cope with the recent sweep. They have now had enough time to decide whether they want to settle or make history. This moment in time is going to define who the San Francisco Giants really are. If they decided that maybe they don’t want it as bad as previous years and they are content with simply building towards next season, that is fine and they can join the 22 other non-playoff teams who make that same choice. As the great motivational speaker Eric Thomas preaches,
“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you will be successful.”
There are many reasons why San Francisco cannot afford to lose hope and that they need to believe that there is still time for them to recover.
1. According to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News, Joe Panik is scheduled to play in his first rehab game in Triple-A Sacramento on Thursday night, and is expected to return to the Giants this upcoming Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Aug 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik (12) hits an rbi double during the third inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The time for all of the injured Giants to come back off the DL could not come at a more perfect timing. The 2015 All Star Panik has been on the shelf since August 1 with back inflammation. Kelby Tomlinson has done a surprisingly good job in replacing Panik at second base, but it is near impossible to replace Panik’s defensive abilities and the threat of him being in the lineup.
Bad timing has put Panik’s middle infield partner Brandon Crawford out with a combination of oblique tightness and a sore calf, but Baggarly has some more good news on the shortstop out of UCLA…
2. In an interview with Baggarly before the loss to the Dodgers Wednesday night, Brandon Crawford said that his calf has improved and is available to pinch hit, but “some of the movements I’d need to play shortstop are a bit limited. … Any kind of push-off on the toe and it really stiffens up.”
Jun 28, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Colorado Rockies during the sixth inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
Although he is not back to 100% recovery, at least it is something. If all goes to plan, the tandem of Panik and Crawford could be middle-infield partners once again on the field Monday night in Arizona.
It has been a huge discussion of who is a better option out in centerfield this season: Gregor Blanco or Pagan? Either way, with the amount of Giants on the DL, depth is a component every team needs, and at the least, Pagan can be a fourth outfielder for the Giants down the stretch. Who knows, maybe Pagan can be the spark they so desperately need.
4. If all goes to plan the Giants could have their expected opening day lineup on the field Monday in Arizona, with the exception of Hunter Pence.
By all accounts, Giants fans and players want Hunter Pence out on the field and motivating the team. However, it is what it is right now and Pence is out with an oblique injury. Updates on Pence’s injury are listed below.
Nonetheless, San Francisco acquired Marlon Byrd and Alejandro de Aza to take the place of Pence, and Byrd has done a fantastic job thus far, while de Aza is still up for interpretation. With that being said, as of Monday September 7, there are 24 games remaining in the season. Injuries have plagued the Giants all season, but San Francisco has 24 games with their best lineup available to put it all on the line.
5. With the exception of one three game set at the end of the month, the Giants play sub–.500 teams the rest of the season.
SF Giants Schedule: September 2015
As displayed by the image shown, San Francisco begins a 7 game road trip Thursday night in Denver against the Colorado Rockies (54-78), followed by a three game series in Phoenix with the Arizona Diamondbacks (65-69), then travel back for a 9 game home stand with the San Diego Padres (64-69), Cincinnati Reds (55-77), and another three games with the Diamondbacks. After that, they will travel back down the I-5 to San Diego, three games across the Bay Bridge with the Oakland Athletics (58-76), a crucial series at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers (75-57), and finally wrapping up the season in San Francisco against the Rockies.
Excluding the Dodgers, the remaining Giants opponents have a combined winning percentage of just .445, and no team is any higher than third place in their respective divisions. On the flip side, the Dodgers will have to matchup against more competitive teams, such teams include the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (67-66), Pittsburgh Pirates (79-52), and, of course, San Francisco. Excluding the Giants, the combined winning percentage of the Dodgers’ opponents is a much higher .496. If the Giants can aim to win each one of these series, it would tremendously increase their playoff chances and continue to put pressure on the Dodgers. Without a doubt, San Francisco has the more favorable schedule.
“if San Francisco can start playing good baseball, winning series right now, and aiming to gain just one game per week on Los Angeles, they will be able to conquer the Dodgers in the last two weeks of the season”
6. According to Alex Pavolic of CSN Bay Area, Hunter Pence’s oblique injury is more serious than expected, but he did take some swings off the tee.
This is not necessarily good news, as Pence was hoping to return earlier than what is now expected. However, simply having Pence in the dugout and the threat of him as a pinch hitter could be useful. Nevertheless, Pence could be back to at least a pinch hitting role during the second-to-last series of the season against…
7. You guessed it: a four game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park September 28–October 1st.
If San Francisco can win every series from here on out until the series against the Dodgers (requires winning 2 games in a 3 game series and winning 3 games in a 4 game series), this would put their record, at the least, at 84-71. Hypothetically, assuming that the Dodgers win every series against the sub–.500 teams and losing every series against the above–.500 teams (assuming they do not get swept), they would be sitting at 89-66 going into the four game set in San Francisco. Essentially, that would mean the Giants would be 5 games back of the Dodgers prior to that series. If the Giants could sweep those four games, if Los Angeles loses their final series to San Diego and San Francisco can win their final series, we have a tie in the West.
I understand that all of that was a tad confusing, but in a nutshell, if San Francisco can start playing good baseball, winning series right now, and aiming to gain just one game per week on Los Angeles, they will be able to conquer the Dodgers in the last two weeks of the season. Understandably, you might be saying, “Wow that was way too many ‘what ifs’ and assuming.” You’re absolutely right. However, once again I will emphasize the fact that if the Giants can turn it around right now, they have a very reasonable chance. Who knows what the inexperienced Chicago Cubs have in store in the last month of the season.
So to answer the question on if the San Francisco Giants still have a chance to reach the playoffs, the answer is yes. What will it require? Belief, determination, and pride.
As Giants first baseman Brandon Belt put it in a post-game interview after the Dodgers series:
“It’s obviously going to be tough, being 6½ back, but I don’t think anybody in this locker room feels we’re out of it by any means. We look at it as, if we can gain a game a week going into that last series (of the regular season against L.A.), we’ll be in pretty good shape. We’ve gone on hot streaks before, and we know we have a good team.”