San Francisco Giants Open Critical Series with a Win

Sep 15, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 15, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports /
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What’s the best way to avoid a tumultuous closing situation while trying to preserve a win? Let your starting pitcher toss a complete game. That’s how the San Francisco Giants managed to beat the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday night, as Johnny Cueto gave his team nine strong innings.

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After getting roughed up by San Diego in the first three games of their homestand, the Giants sure didn’t look ready to take on a playoff contender like the Cardinals. But then they showed up looking like the team that posted the Majors’ best record in the season’s first half.

Cueto gave up just two runs on five hits and a walk. Buster Posey racked up four hits, while Hunter Pence hit a two-run homer. Brandon Belt didn’t get any hits, but he walked twice and scored twice. Angel Pagan, who batted leadoff, had multiple hits, as did Eduardo Nunez and Denard Span.

Much of this came against longtime Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. Though Wainwright hasn’t had a great season, he’s a highly accomplished veteran who’s pitching in September for a playoff contender. Chasing him from the game in the sixth inning after scoring four runs on nine hits suggests the Giants have some fight left in them.

With the Dodgers losing Thursday night, the Giants sit four games behind Los Angeles in the National West, and they created some space in the wild card standings, giving themselves a one-game lead over the New York Mets, who were idle Thursday, and a two-game lead over the Cardinals.

If the Giants can just prove Thursday night wasn’t an aberration, they still have a chance of holding their wild card spot through Game 162.

Of course, Lloyd Christmas—Jim Carrey’s character in “Dumb & Dumber”—clung on to hope when he was told he had a one in a million chance of dating the object of his desire. But the Giants’ chances of reaching the postseason are a little better than that, so it’s not quite so crazy to continue believing in the team.

Unfortunately, the Giants’ starting pitchers can’t go the distance every game. So the team still need to figure out the closer situation. Finding that solution this late in the season might be closer to one in a million.

But hey, there’s still a chance.