5-4 loss Fri &
2-1 loss Sat
Two one-run losses in Chicago encapsulate the year so far: Giants are just a little short of being a complete team. The Cubs are baseball's best right now, and have been most of the season. The Giants flirted with that distinction for a bit in late July but have now been overtaken within their own division. At one point in the two games the Giants were 0-for-40, yet they had legitimate chances to win both. That's the essence of the 2016 Giants--very good, but not enough. Friday night was the familiar story with the bullpen blowing the lead. This is the most obvious weakness of the club, and it should be noted that with the retirement departure of Jeremy Affeldt at the end of last season and the impending free agencies for Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and Santiago Casilla at the end of this season, the Core Four will likely be no more in 2017. An argument can be made that the remaining three could be done in orange-and-black, but that's a discussion for the off-season.
Jon Lester flirted with a no-hitter but Hunter Pence, the hot hand in the lineup, saved the team from ignominy this afternoon with a wind-defying blast. He had one last night as well. The baseball gods favored the home team today as several Giants hit the crap out of the ball but to no avail, either a great play in the field or fortunate placement of a fielder snuffed out the hits. I keep going back to my that-sums-up-the-season notion, certainly luck has not been on the side of the good guys since the Break. A foot difference here or there could have turned today's dominating win from Lester into a clean Caining, a great start wasted in a close loss. Alas, the Giants are indeed offensively challenged these days, and really have to add some pop to the program for the next set of shows. It's one thing to spurn the homer but still win. It's another to spurn the homer and continue to come up short, especially with the rest of the league banging them out regularly.
Jeff Samardzija was not effective on Friday and Albert Suarez was effective today, but the result was the same in both cases. Starting pitching has been spotty, at least by San Francisco standards; the drop-off from the ace lefty-righty pair a little too big, despite being overall, a better-than-league-average rotation. It all adds up to a good team, just not a great team. Despite the 5th-highest payroll they are tied for the 8th-best record. Then again it's nothing that a 20-8 record the rest of the way couldn't cure. Even if the Dodgers win tonight it's only a three-game deficit with six games head-to-head remaining, do-able even if difficult. Then there's the Wild Card, eminently reachable, but not anyone's first choice or anywhere close to pre-season expectations for this bunch.
If it seems like I'm avoiding discussing the last two games in any detail, that's exactly what I'm doing. Skipping the details. The wins are not coming with the needed frequency and at this point the details are moot. I can't quit, they certainly aren't, and the math says the odds for post-season play are still good. It's not that anything is rotten in Denmark, just a little past fresh.
Marquee matchup tomorrow afternoon with Madison Bumgarner and Jake Arrieta.