San Francisco Giants Lose NL West Lead, Now Atop Wild Card

By Laith Agha
Jung Ho Kang is seen here hitting a single on Monday against the Giants. But this looks pretty similar to the game-deciding home run he hit Tuesday. (Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports)
Jung Ho Kang is seen here hitting a single on Monday against the Giants. But this looks pretty similar to the game-deciding home run he hit Tuesday. (Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports) /

First, the bad news: The San Francisco Giants fell into to second place Tuesday night and are now sitting half a game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. Now for the good (i.e. glass half full) news: The Giants lead the NL Wild Card race, and they still have 43 games to reverse their fortunes and regain the division.

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The standings swap happened after the Giants lost, 4-3, to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Dodgers walloped the Philadelphia Phillies, 15-5, behind Chase Utley’s 2 home runs and 5 RBI. Utley, of course, was drafted by Philadelphia and played his entire career there until the Phillies traded him away almost exactly a year ago.

Tuesday marked Utley’s first game back in Philly since the trade, so his performance was uniquely inspired.

Why does that matter? It probably doesn’t. I’m just reaching a little to say that his emotional boost ignited a domino effect for the Dodgers and led them to this convincing victory/seizing of the division, and that an emotional hangover will set in today. That, in turn, will lead to a crash by the Dodgers that will allow the Giants to move back into first place.

But that’s all hopeful conjecture. The real issue is how energized the Giants will be moving forward. It’s not that the Giants are getting spanked on the field. They just are struggling to, pardon the cliché, fire on all cylinders. When one problem gets fixed another arises. When one player snaps a slump, another hits the skids.

Case in point: Samardzija had struggled through a lengthy midseason slump, but on Tuesday he tossed his second straight decent start. He wasn’t dominant, but he pitched well enough to win. Santiago Casilla, the goat in Sunday’s devastating loss to Baltimore, tossed a shutout inning in the ninth to give the Giants a chance to tie or win the game in their final at-bat.

But it was the Giants’ most reliable reliever, Derek Law, who faltered on Tuesday and gave up the deciding run on a Jung Ho Kang home run in the eighth inning. It’s not like anyone can be disappointed in Law; it was the first run he had allowed since June—he had taken the mound 19 times in that span.

Law was due to give up a run. It unfortunately came when the Giants were in a tight game against a good team. And to think, around 3 p.m. Sunday, the Giants appeared to be well on their way to a hot streak. Instead, they’ve lost three in a row.

But not all is lost.

Remember our discussion at the top about good and bad news? Well, here’s some more good news: the Giants are a talented team with a history of playing a certain style that Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper coined as “torture.” (You know all too well what I’m talking about.) So, we’ve all been through this before, as the team has made a habit of enduring torturous struggles to ultimately take home some World Series trophies. Three of them, actually.

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That, of course, makes it nearly impossible to project postseason success. But recent history gives reason to believe that, one way or another, the Giants will figure it out.