At first it seemed like the best way to attempt to summarize this season for the San Francisco Giants would be to ingest some high quality hallucinogenic mushrooms and just start scribbling. However, one never really knows what doing something like that will lead to and there was work and other responsibilities so I didn’t. Besides, I didn’t have any to eat. It likely would have made it all make more sense, though.
On Sunday, July 10, the Giants beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-0 as Madison Bumgarner won his tenth game against four losses. The team thus arrived at the All Star break with a 57-33 record and a 6.5 game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. Their record was the best in all of major league baseball at the time, three games better than either the Texas Rangers or the Chicago Cubs. Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto,and Jeff Samardzija had a combined won-loss record of 32-10. Cueto (13-1) was deservedly named to start the All Star game in San Diego. Bumgarner pitched a one hitter that day with 14 strikeouts. Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, and Brandon Crawford were each hitting pretty well at the time. So the fact that second baseman Joe Panik, right fielder Hunter Pence (no relation to the Cro-Magnon governor of Indiana), and third baseman Matt Duffy were all out of the lineup for extended periods didn’t seem to be hurting them. Besides that, veteran starting pitchers Jake Peavy and Matt Cain were combining periods of ill health with periods of ineffective pitching. People like Reuben Tejada, Grant Green, and Mac Williamson were filling in. Yet, there the Giants were, on top of it all.
Then the Giants got Pence and Panik back and traded Duffy for what looked like a better pitching bet in lefty Matt Moore. They then proceeded to take eleven weeks off, losing 41 of 66 games to fall hopelessly behind the Dodgers. The Giants found every conceivable way to lose games. The bullpen went from mediocre to not very good to scary. The hitting, especially with runners in scoring position, virtually disappeared. Samardzija was giving up a lot of long balls. Posey went two months without a home run. Manager Bruce Bochy got disrespected on the field by relievers Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo and, at one point, had to spend a night in a hospital. The fielding, a constant plus over the last few seasons, had some bad times as well. Even the great Giants announcing crew seemed to lose their spirit and sound sullen and defeated.
Finally, at the end of September, their last road trip ended with losses in two of three games in L.A. and a slit of four in San Diego that the Giants simply just had to win. Oh, well, we thought, October just means it’s that much closer to April. Hello, wait! The last home stand featured what seems like a resurrection. Starting with a 12-3 blasting of Colorado, they won 5 of the final six games including a sweep of the Dodgers who, admittedly, had already clinched. Now a wild card game featuring Bumgarner at his best and the unheralded Conor Gillaspie. What’s going on? Now,in my own words of just a few days ago, they are bear bait. Well, we’ll see.