The San Francisco Giants road back to the World Series looks like their toughest yet. As the second NL wild-card team, they’ll have to beat Noah Syndergaard and the New York Mets at home on Wednesday, then they’d head to Chicago to face the best team in baseball this season.
The Cubs are everybody’s World Series favorite and the Giants are the team that snuck in the postseason on the final day. If they shock everyone and beat the Cubs, then they’ll have to beat either the Washington Nationals or the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
As unlikely as all that sounds — especially when you consider the weakness that crippled the Giants in the second half: their bullpen – we’ve reached the time of the baseball season when it’s not strange to see wild-card teams rise up and topple division winners. We’ve seen the Giants in this exact position before, so it’s hard not to at least think they have a chance.
There’s no stat for momentum — heck, some of the numbers-minded people out there will tell you there’s no such thing. But the Giants head into the postseason feeling a lot more like a contender than they did even a week ago. San Francisco swept the first-place Dodgers in the final weekend of the season to secure their playoff berth. They looked a lot more like the team that had the best record in the first half and not the team on the brink of collapse in the second half. It’s often been said the team that gets hot at the right time wins the World Series. That may be one reason to believe in the Giants.
THAT STARTING ROTATION
Pitching wins in the postseason, and while their relievers have been the cause of many headaches, expletives and blown saves, the Giants’ group of starters looks quite good. It starts with Madison Bumgarner, whose postseason dominance is well documented after the team’s 2014 run. But he’s got some new friend this year, namely Johnny Cueto, who won a World Series last year with the Royals. Then the Giants have either Jeff Samardzija or Matt Moore next, should they get out of the wild-card game. They’re not slouches. Now if they can just throw complete games every time out.
HUNTER PENCE IS HEALTHY
Pence is the heartbeat of this team. He makes things happen on the field and at the plate. He’s been beat up at times this season, but September found him healthy and productive. The Giants have a well-balanced offense when everything is going right, so they don’t rely on just one person. But when Pence is at his best — and he was in September with a .314 batting average and a .385 on-base percentage — he’s their spark plug.
BRUCE BOCHY, PLAYOFF WHISPERER
Do you know how many postseason series the Giants have lost with Bruce Bochy as their manager? Zero. That doesn’t mean the Giants are invincible, rather it means that Bochy knows how to win when it counts the most. This shouldn’t be overlooked.
Oh, you didn’t think we’d forget about this, did you? Every bit of rational thinking says what year it is doesn’t matter, but then again the Giants have World Series trophies from 2010, 2012 and 2014 in their trophy case. So, maybe that’s a respectable counterpoint. This season actually feels a lot like the 2014 from the Giants perspective. Whether you believe in the even-year stuff or not, it’s probably not a good idea to bet against the Giants.
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