The Cubs have been rebuilding since 1909, and a number of Philadelphia players have recently qualified to receive Social Security benefits. The disintegrating-before-your-eyes Rockies are a team playing with four of their top hitters out for the rest of the 2014 season, including NL MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki.
And that’s been the rap against the Giants since April– they’re able to beat those teams for whom a .500 win/loss record would be franchise-changing, but they cannot consistently win against the best teams in the National League.
Now, with a 2014 post-season appearance on the line, San Francisco just demonstrated they can beat the best the National League has to offer.
After winning three of four games at home with the Rockies August 25-28, they proceeded to sweep the Milwaukee Brewers at AT&T Park, outscoring the Brewers 31 to 8 over the three game set. And it was the Giants who helped push the Brewers out of 1st place in the NL Central, no doubt getting the undivided attention of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the various NL Wild Card contenders.
The message was clear: this thing isn’t even remotely settled quite yet.
The sweep of the Brewers in the final three days of August couldn’t have happened at a better time. A “dog days” victory like that provides the kind of momentum a struggling team like the Giants can build on the rest of September.
And in this month of September San Francisco has 24 games remaining, including two more with the team formerly known as the Rockies and four with the down-and-out-and-down Arizona Diamondbacks.
Sure, there are also a number of pesky series coming up (one with Detroit, two with the Dodgers, and a heart-stopping seven games with the San Diego Padres), but if San Francisco makes the playoffs I think we’ll look back at that Milwaukee series as a critical tipping point in the season.
And it’s not just the Brewers. Since August 15th the Giants have gone 11-6, outscoring their opponents 99 to 67, including seven games in which the opposing teams were held to two runs or less. That, I believe, is the definition of momentum.
My well-documented criticisms of how this team was put together and Giants’ management still stand. But you have to appreciate the grit of players like Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval, and leadership shown by Angel Pagan and Buster Posey.
Add Madison Bumgarner and a tattered but effective bullpen (the Giants’ bullpen is #5 in MLB bullpen ERA), and there might be enough here to play baseball into October.
The crazy thing is, of all teams it’s the San Diego Padres who will have the most to say about exactly where the Giants finish at the end of the 2014 season.