It was likely not the way they wanted to reach the playoffs. Nonetheless, they have cause to celebrate.
The San Francisco Giants were knocked out of the NL West Pennant chase last night, after Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers snuffed out their chances in a 9-1 victory at Dodger Stadium.
This was a Giants team that was 10 games up on the Dodgers with the best record in the major leagues (43-21) on June 8. Since then, both teams had gone in opposite directions: With LA riding a strong rotation headed by Kershaw and Zach Greinke, and an offense that gelled throughout the season, the Bums went 58-37 – 21 games over .500 – since June 8. As for the Giants? Problems in both the rotation and bullpen, along with a myriad of injuries, hurt Los Gigantes badly, as they went 10 games under .500 (42-52) since June 8.
Fortunately for San Francisco, despite losing the division crown to their biggest rival, they still held a magic number of 1 heading into today. All they needed was one more victory against the San Diego Padres in their final regular season series, or the Milwaukee Brewers to lose one more game to secure their Wild Card spot.
In what can only be seen as anticlimactic for San Francisco fans, that’s exactly what happened earlier today – in a day game at Great American Ball Park, the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Brewers (81-78) 5-3, to eliminate Milwaukee from playoff contention.
Their loss was San Francisco’s gain – and now the Giants will be thrust into the Wild Card game to start the 2014 MLB Postseason.
Unless the Pittsburgh Pirates, who hold the first Wild Card spot, stumble down the stretch, San Francisco will likely have to travel to PNC Park for their one-game playoff.
However, despite reaching the postseason for the third time in five years – winning the World Series in their last two appearances (2010, 2012) – the Giants may boast their weakest playoff squad in decades. They will be missing key cogs on offense – including leadoff hitter Angel Pagan, who had season-ending back surgery earlier today. The outfielder is vital for setting the tone in the defensive field as well as the lineup. Meanwhile, slugger Michael Morse is still a question mark heading into the postseason.
Their starting rotation is no better, with a struggling Tim Hudson, an up-and-down Ryan Vogelsong and a mercurial Yusmeiro Petit likely rounding out a squad boasting Madison Bumgarner as their No. 1 starter.
It’s possible that their young talent – including second basemen Joe Panik and Matt Duffy, and backup catcher Andrew Susac – can inject new life into a postseason that could wake up at the right time. It’s possible that Bumgarner could set the tone for a struggling rotation. It’s possible the magic of 2012’s Orange October could find the Giants again, and, against all odds, they could make another World Series run.
Though, I wouldn’t hold my breath, with all the obstacles the Giants have to overcome, both internally and against their opponents … Anything is possible.