The Giants had a really good week, going 5-1 while moving through a three-city road trip that included the A’s in Oakland, the Mets (who until recently were a first-place team and who still have some good hitters and relievers), and now the Braves (first-place team).
5-1 on a tough road trip is good! So why do I say this through gritted teeth? Well, the main reason is that I was really annoyed by last night’s loss. When the Giants take a two-run lead into the bottom of the seventh, I expect them to win. They usually do. I am not Spencer Stewart and didn’t write this Tweet, but I could have.
The Giants have to close games like that period. when you are in a race as tight as this one, there is just no room for error. Can't be giving away games late like they did tonight. The Giants have to win this series and have just made it more difficult on themselves.
— Spencer Stewart (@goldenbears98) August 28, 2021
That was pretty much how I felt, and Schulman pointed out to this guy that he was being unreasonable. But that’s the second reason why it doesn’t feel like “a good week” even though it absolutely was: the damn Dodgers, who seem to never lose. (Thanks for nothing, Padres. SMH.) But then they did!–yay, Rockies!–so I feel a tiny bit better about things. But we can’t be tense about every single Giants game and Dodgers game for the next five weeks, so let’s get some perspective. I’m mainly preaching to myself, of course.
- The Giants clinched their first winning season in five years. This is a big deal. In the long, storied history of the Giants franchise, there had never been five consecutive losing seasons. Not even in the gosh-awful early 80s. And if the experts before the season were right, the Giants would have won just 75-77 games on the way to another losing season. But here we are. I thought I was being optimistic by predicting 85 wins for the Giants in Reno Jim’s little preseason contest, but I’ll be honest: I mainly did it because I couldn’t bear to contemplate a record-setting fifth-straight losing season. Reader, the Giants have a great chance of hitting 85 wins before the calendar turns to September.
- The Giants are almost certain to make the playoffs. The Giants are 15 games ahead of the Padres in the standings. If the season ended today, the Dodgers would be the first wild card and the Cincinnati Reds would be the second wild card. The Padres are two games behind the Reds, and that’s where the Giants would have to be to miss the playoffs entirely. Now, I know we want an NL West title, not a wild card spot, given that the Giants have been leading the division for three solid months now. But the Dodgers are tough, the schedule is tougher, and the Giants, let’s be brutally honest, were not built for a September/October run. [They were actually built to flip almost their whole rotation for prospects in July, but the players had a different plan.] Be that as it may, the Giants would have to experience an epic September collapse to miss the playoffs entirely. If back in March someone had told us that the Giants would, on August 28, be headed for more than 90 wins and a playoff spot, we would have all been ecstatic. And skeptical.
- The present is awesome and the future is bright. I’m sure I appreciate the Giants’ stunning success this season even more after four bleak years and as we still struggle with a pandemic, but there’s more to it. This season has had the greatest collection of exciting, dramatic games I can ever remember. You’re barely over gasping from a dramatic late-inning homer to stun the A’s when they do it again the next day. Same with beating Kenley Jansen two nights in a row in Dodger Stadium in July. Whoever puts together a compilation of this season when it’s over will have their work cut out for them. It might need to be four hours long. The Giants are must-see TV this year–and this wasn’t even supposed to be their year. The Giants already have a nice group of successful players returning next year, tons of money to spend for free agents if they want to, and a rising farm system (eighth this week in a new ranking by MLB.com). Maybe more importantly, they have firmly established a system of evaluating and developing talent that clearly works and a culture that players want to be part of. That’s a foundation you can keep building on even as the names change.
OK, that’s the big picture. Here are a few specific things to be proud of/pleased with/excited about.
- Young starters: Logan Webb has been one of the best and most important stories of 2021. I’ll admit it: I was one who thought, after Webb’s inconsistent 2020 season, that he’d be well served by starting the year in AAA. Then he had a strong spring and made the team, and then…he pitched pretty much like he had in 2020. But then a strange thing happened: He went on the IL with a tired shoulder and came back a total stud. He’s now the clear ace of the staff–yeah, I know Kevin Gausman was the Opening Day starter and that Johnny Cueto makes the most money, but Webb is the best pitcher in the rotation now, and that’s been true for awhile. And while it’s too soon to get equally enthusiastic about Sammy Long, he had a nice spot start against the Mets this week, and wouldn’t it be found money if the Giants could go into next season with their 25-year-old righty and 26-year-old lefty as rotation anchors, even before they try to sign Gausman or Anthony DeSclafani back (and it sounds like they’re already starting those conversations) or anyone else?
- Fantastic bullpen: Yes, I know the bullpen faltered last night. But the fact is they’ve been carrying the pitching staff since around the All-Star break. Here’s a great stat that Schulman shared on Twitter: Including last night, since May 28 (exactly three months), the Giants have lost just four times when there’s been a blown save. (They’ve had other blown saves but still managed to win those games.) They lead the majors in save opportunities and have the third-best save conversion percentage. They also have a very good 25-15 record in one-run games. (The Dodgers, in contrast, are only 19-21 in one-run games.) With the exception of Tony Watson, the Giants have team control over every single one of those guys (team option on Jose Alvarez). They can bring them all back next year, and they’ve still got live arms like Camilo Doval, Kervin Castro, John Brebbia, and Reyes Moronta in AAA.
- Young arms are on the way: Do you know which team leads all of the minor leagues in strikeouts? That would be the San Jose Giants (Low A). Do you know which team is second in the minor leagues in strikeouts? That would be the Eugene Emeralds (High A). The major league staff is not really composed of big strikeout guys, but that’s likely to change in the coming years. Ryan Murphy (now with Eugene), the Giants’ fifth-round pick in 2020, leads all of MiLB in strikeouts with 156 (in just 103.1 innings).
- The young hitters are coming along: Most notably, Patrick Bailey has started to hit for San Jose (.302 with a .988 OPS in August). 21-year-old outfielder Jairo Pomares, who was raking in San Jose, hasn’t missed a beat since his promotion to Eugene. Heliot Ramos now has his batting average up to .279 in AAA Sacramento (.310 with a .848 OPS in August), and Joey Bart is back on the active roster after missing a few weeks with an injury.
Giants at Braves, 4:20(!!!) p.m., Truist Park (that’s a weird name for a ballpark, BTW)
Logan Webb (7-3, 2.84 ERA) vs. Huascar Ynoa (4-3, 2.89 ERA)
Looks like a nice matchup between two good young righties. The Giants are short-handed with Brandon Belt on bereavement leave (back tomorrow), Kris Bryant’s status unknown after he left the game last night with “side tightness,” Evan Longoria back on the IL, and Donovan Solano quarantined in New York with COVID. So in other words: Things are pretty much normal. Let’s get this one tonight, anyway–but let’s also remember the big picture. Lefty out.