SAN FRANCISCO - Throughout the last couple weeks of August, Giants manager Bruce Bochy shied away from any talk of his team being a "spoiler" down the stretch. He still wanted to believe the Giants could go on a winning streak and sneak back into the National League West race, but before Tuesday's game, a 10th consecutive loss, he met with his players and delivered a tough message.
Bochy said one of the hardest parts of his job is to come to the realization that a season is over, and he had to tell his players this week that their focus should be on playing hard and showing character. A season that started with hope is down to 15 games that are meaningless to the Giants but not to their opponents, three of whom are fighting for postseason spots.
Bochy still does not want you to call the Giants spoilers, though.
"I probably prefer ‘disruptor,'" he said, smiling.
The Giants haven't done any disrupting, either. They'll show up to the ballpark tonight riding an 11-game losing streak, the franchise's longest since 1951. On the last trip they helped the Rockies stay in first place and the Brewers sneak up on the Cubs. They started this homestand by getting the Braves three wins closer to a surprise NL East title, and a contender is once again coming into AT&T Park this weekend. The Giants play three more with the Rockies, who have a 1 1/2 game lead on the Dodgers.
"It's not a great position to be in, but it is a motivational thing for players in this kind of year, when you're not in it," Bochy said. "You can impact what happens."
In an ideal world, the Giants will impact the Dodgers in a way that brings a little joy to what otherwise has been a depressing month for fans. The rivals will meet at AT&T Park over the final three days of the season and Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez are lined up to start two of those games, ending their strong rookie seasons with important matchups. If the Giants want to push Madison Bumgarner back a day, he could start the opener of that series.
Perhaps that will allow for the best case scenario at this point. The Giants will not make the playoffs, but they should have a chance to knock the Dodgers out, too. The flip side of that is that they may have to watch their rivals celebrate a division title at AT&T Park for the second time in four years.
Before that, the Giants will face other contenders. While they have six left against the Padres, they visit Busch Stadium at the end of their next road trip. The Cardinals are currently the second Wild Card team.
This is not how Bochy imagined September going, but he has been able to take a silver lining from the situation. At the very least, his rookies are getting quality reps. Rodriguez and Suarez will finish up against one of the best lineups in the National League, and players like Austin Slater, Chris Shaw and Aramis Garcia aren't being sent up against pitchers they saw in the minors this season. They're getting at-bats against guys like Mike Foltynewicz, who cut the Braves' magic number down on Tuesday. It's likely the Giants will see Clayton Kershaw over the final weekend of the season. Every night, the Giants are seeing the best opposing bullpens have to offer, too.
"It's been great for them. It gives them an idea of what they'll see in the Major Leagues, especially as far as relief pitchers," Bochy said. "As they go into the winter they'll see some of the best and not just (see) call-ups. It's good for them. Now they have a visual of what they could be facing next year."