There have been moments this season when the San Francisco Giants played like the best team in baseball. Other times, they’ve played like the worst. I’ve never seen a team that was simultaneously so good and so bad. The Giants opened the season 57-33, one of the best records in baseball. But since the All Star Break they’ve gone 20-35. That’s the worst in baseball.
Now it’s September and the Giants are hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in an important four game series. Both teams are in Wild Card contention, with the Giants ahead of the Cards and Mets by one game and .5 games respectively.
The Giants will look to right themselves after suffering a three game sweep at the hands of the San Diego Padres that opened their seven game home stand.
“Everybody in this room is getting after it, even though the result wasn’t good,” second baseman Joe Panik said after Wednesday’s loss. “We have the Cardinals coming in and that’s always a battle. We know how to play them.”
The Cards and Giants have played a number of exciting games in the past seven years or so, most notably the 2014 NLCS that sent San Francisco to their third World Series in five years. Dating back to 2014, however, the Cardinals have won each of their last four regular season series against the Giants. The Giants cannot let that trend continue if they hope to make the playoffs in 2016 and possibly regain first place in the NL West in time to capture the division title.
“You never lose sight of winning the division,” said managet Bruce Bochy. “That’s still our focus. We have a lot of games in our division, games against the Dodgers. We’ve got to win the games we’re supposed to be winning.”
San Francisco is in a better spot than the Cards, who are unlucky enough to play in the same division as the Chicago Cubs who have been indomitable all season and are squarely in first place. The Giants, meanwhile, play in the NL West and are still within striking distance of the Los Angeles Dodgers. A series win against St. Louis combined with timely wins in their six remaining games against LA could propel SF to a division title – no matter their dismal second half.
“We’re at that time, you got to grind it out and find a way to get through this. We got to recover, this team has done a good job at that,” Bochy said. “They know what’s at stake. They’ve played under pressure like no other team.”
The key to this series for the Giants has got to be the bullpen. Per the Giants PR team, since Aug. the ‘pen has posted 6.00 ERA in the ninth inning or later, compared to a 1.55 ERA in all other innings. That first stat must improve if San Francisco hopes to win games against good teams like the Cardinals.