As the Giants finished off the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday to set up another September to remember, it was a reminder that these guys don’t fit the mold despite all their success.
The Giants do little for the new wave of stat geeks controlling the narrative of the game. Giants general manager Brian Sabean is not sexy like A’s boss Billy Beane. Baseball America does not wax poetic about Giants prospects. The Giants got crushed at the All-Star break for doing “nothing” in the way of trades, while the A’s drew raves for executing big deals geared toward glory.
Yet look at the Giants now. They are poised to battle for the National League West title against their ancient rivals from Los Angeles beginning Friday night at AT&T Park.
Only two games behind the Dodgers when the Angelenos should have run away with the West, the Giants still have six games to play against L.A. with 16 games to go overall.
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This is not only a narrative that seemed unlikely as recently as Aug. 12, exactly one month ago. This is a story that defies what baseball pundits and fans hold up as praiseworthy or exciting in the game. The A’s are the team for baseball minds. The Yankees and Red Sox are dormant titans. The Nationals are the up-and-comers. The Cardinals are the smart dynasty.
But where do the Giants fit in these story lines? They don’t.
They just generate head scratches and skepticism.
Two World Series titles since 2010 haven’t done much to create a strong national persona that would fit with so much success.
If they keep rolling this weekend against the Dodgers and overtake the team with the biggest payroll in baseball, cue the same incredulous looks and headlines the Giants generated in 2012 and 2010.
No one could believe what they were doing until they were pouring champagne on their heads both times. Who can believe this now?
On Aug. 12, the Giants lost 3-2 at home to the lowly Chicago White Sox. It was San Francisco’s fifth loss in a row. Two weeks before that – on July 29 – the Giants had lost at home to the Pittsburgh Pirates for their sixth loss in a row to equal their longest losing streak of the season.
Did we mention that Los Angeles should have run away from the Giants during that stretch?
Since Aug. 25, the Giants have not lost consecutive games.
Thursday’s 6-2 win over Arizona was their ninth consecutive home win – the longest such streak in three years. They have outscored opponents 58-14 in that stretch.
The Giants – yes, the Giants – lead baseball in several significant hitting categories since the All-Star break. They are first in runs, batting average and batting average with runners in scoring position since they seemed dead in mid-July.
Jake Peavy – yes, Jake Peavy – won Thursday for the fifth time in his past six starts. Discarded by the Boston Red Sox, Peavy has a 1.12 ERA in those six starts for the Giants.
Giants starters have posted a 1.00 ERA in the past 10 home games.
San Francisco reached this point even though Brandon Belt, their best early-season hitter, has missed most of the season. Travis Ishikawa – yes, Travis Ishikawa – has played ably in Belt’s absence and contributed again Thursday. Rookie Joe Panik – yes, Joe Panik – filled a black hole at second base.
The farm system that was supposed to be terrible – despite producing Buster Posey, Belt, Brandon Crawford, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Sergio Romo – also provided the 2014 lifesaver known as backup catcher Andrew Susac.
Cain suffered an injury, but then Sabean got Peavy. Romo blew up as a closer, but Santiago Casilla stepped in.
Leadoff man Angel Pagan has missed significant time, as has new outfielder Michael Morse.
Lincecum forgot how to pitch, but Yusmeiro Petit filled the hole. Petit will go against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Sunday – and seemed calm about the daunting challenge.
“This core group, they have the experience to go out and enjoy this,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “(This Dodgers series) is going to be exciting baseball. It’s what this game is about.”
Winning is what this game is about, and the Giants are about winning. Their formula of pitching and veteran leadership hasn’t been immortalized in literature or film. They don’t do any one thing better than anyone else, except win meaningful games in even-numbered years.
Will they repeat in 2014 what they did in 2012 and 2010? If they do, you can be sure it will come as a surprise to everyone but them.