By TED SILLANPAA
Fifteen minutes after the San Francisco Giants lost Saturday to the New York Mets, I checked Twitter to find fans in desperate search for ways to explain away the loss. It seems to have been devastating to folks. The Giants had fallen back into a virtual tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West in the Mets’ 9-5 win.
Was Matt More working especially slowly? Why doesn’t he seem to enjoy himself out there?
Jake Peavy’s finished, certainly has no future as a relief pitcher in the Giants’ overall scheme! Why would Bruce Bochy leave him in to give up 5 earned runs on 5 hits in 2 innings after Moore worked 5 excruciating innings?
Sure the Giants pounding the ball, 11 more hits today, but what . . .
I put the cell phone down and tuned into the Dodgers game in Cincinnati against the Reds. Cincy left hander Brandon Finnegan was working on a no-hitter through four innings and the Redlegs led the Dodgers, 5-0.
Now, I could’ve gone back to Twitter to hear arteries leading to and from the hearts of Giants’ fans clogging with red rock infield dirt. The alternative was sitting back and enjoying Finnegan and the Reds potentially making early Saturday evening baseball far more enjoyable than the game in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon was.
I chose to watch the Reds go about trying to push the Dodgers a full game behind the Giants. You see, it doesn’t matter how or when the division leader builds it’s lead. It’s just important that they get a lead and don’t let it slip away, particularly because they when their nearest challengers are sufficiently inferior to have pulled into the division lead — then lost 2 full games in the standings immediately.
The Giants and Dodgers are fairly evenly matched clubs. The May-June portion of the Giants’ season was an aberration. Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzjia aren’t the the greatest threesome in the history off starting pitchers. Moore, briefly, had fans rushing to call this the best group of four starters in any one rotation.
When the July Giants’ were wrecked with injuries, fans held their breath hoping the Dodgers wouldn’t soar past San Francisco (they did not). Fans were certain that, once healthy, the Giants would have a smooth path to the NL West title. As it turns out, the return of Hunter Pence and Joe Panik hurting the club’s ability to score runs came as a bit of a shock. Matt Cain rejoined the rotation and and returned quickly to the disabled list.
Of course, the Giants are better with Pence and Panik in the lineup. Just like Eduardo Nunez can play this game. He’s a five-tool guy who was hidden, even on the AL All-Star team, in Minnesota. The panic of early August yielded to a sense of calm as the Giants started knocking the ball around the ball park while the Dodgers continued slogging away, keeping pace in the division race. They took the lead at one point. The Giants took it right back. After falling to the Mets, the Giants ended Saturday a game up on the Dodgers — 11-1 losers to the Reds.
Those are three drastic mood swings for the fans of the San Francisco Giants.
It would be wise to accept that the Giants’ will have ups and down and downs and ups in the final month-plus of this regular season. Fans have to forget that beautiful spring fling where the Giants won 75-80 percent of their games. That was more the result of schedule-makers backloading tough road trips against even tougher teams. It did seems as though the Giants were playing a cellar-dweller every other series back then. That’s why they won 80 percent of the games.
Now come the Dodgers, Nationals, Cubs, Cardinals, Mets, Pirates, Rockies, etc. And, you’re not dreaming, most the games are on the road. The first big Giants-Dodgers series comes this week in Los Angeles.
Oh, the Giants won’t have a cushion . . . nor will the Dodgers have risen past the Giants. We’ll see two teams clunking their way through what clearly will be a messy pennant race. Even if Clayton Kershaw does come back from the disabled list soon, the only team that has the capacity to pull away in the NL West is the Giants. It’s important to accept that the Dodgers just can’t get so hot they’ll win by 5 games. It’s that fear that tightens the arteries to the heart and clouds the brain. The Giants could easily rebuild a 3-4 game cushion. Bumgarner, Cueto, Moore and Samardzjia are still four formidable starting pitchers. Can you even name the Dodgers’ top 4 starters?
It’s really important for the Giants fans to keep in mind their team can get right and rebuild a little lead it would take the Dodgers two weeks to make up. San Francisco plays the Mets once more, then plays three in Los Angeles and could be 4.5 games up on the Dodgers this time next week.
I don’t pretend to be a Cable TV Company Sports Insider. I just thought all the Twitter angst was absurd, then tuned into the Dodgers being no-hit by a solid, young lefty in Cincy. You’re like me. You get to choose how you view the Giants’ final weeks of the season. I chose to accept it’ll be rocky, messy, hard to figure and that the Giants are better than the Dodgers. It’ll be a blast.
If you find more joy in trying to imagine that Matt Moore would pitch more effectively if he whistled “High Hopes” during his warmup pitches between innings, OK. If you want to enjoy the game by worrying about it, your call. It just seems wise to accept that the Giants are hitting again with pitching improving. They will find a way to make things harder than the team that won 80 percent of the time should find it..
Accept that the Giants are the NL West favorites, but that any fan who is looking for a smooth road to the division title is just asking for headaches they’ll share on Twitter.