The Giants went to bed Sunday night with a feeling they had not experienced in a while – the one in which they finished a day’s work as the team with the most wins in the National League.
They walked off the field at AT&T Park with an 8-7 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies while the Chicago Cubs lost at Miami 6-l. The outcomes made for a nice exacta box for San Francisco backers in the 141st running of the National League Handicap.
The N.L. West leaders are still a half-game short of the Central-leading Cubs – and the American League Texas Rangers, for that matter – for the best record in baseball. But when it comes to the Cubs, the Giants are closing fast.
With the clubs going in different directions, the Giants should pass the Cubs before the nation celebrates its 240th birthday next week, assuming we last that long as a people.
The Giants have won 13 of their past 15 games, while the Cubs have lost six of seven.
The Giants’ short-term future also appears to be favorable. A glance forward discloses a schedule of matchups with nothing but losing teams for the next 16 games. The beneficence begins on Monday night at AT&T Park against the Oakland A’s.
Of course, the Phillies were among the losers, too, entering the weekend series in San Francisco, which sold out as usual three more times but only with a fraction of the number of fans who lined the sidewalks of Market Street for Sunday’s Pride Parade.
A million for the parade, almost 42,000 Sunday for the Giants and another 47,000 minimum at Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, and you could say the Bay Area had a few people out and about for the afternoon. It was a good afternoon for train passengers and a bad one for car drivers.
Baseball is almost as funny as some of the outfits the aficionados wore to the parade, as seen in the BART stations beneath downtown, although the game is not nearly as revealing.
Here you had the Giants nearing the best record in baseball and the Phillies wondering if they’d ever get the hang of it again.
In Philadelphia’s good old days in the middle of May, they were seven games over .500 and within a half-game of the N.L. East lead. It’s been a hellish 43 days in the meantime for the club, which has gone 10-30 since attaining its high-water mark.
You’d never know they’ve been through Stinkville by the way they played over the weekend.
On Sunday, the Phillies tested the Giants as if the clubs were tangling again in the National League Championship Series, which they did as recently as 2010 when San Francisco won in six games and went on to win the first of its three World Series championships.
The Phillies spotted the Giants a 5-1 lead after three innings but caught up in the fifth and again in the seventh and eighth. A couple of doubles by a couple of recent River Cats, Ramiro Pena and Conor Gillaspie, produced the winning run for the Giants in the bottom of the ninth. If it seems the Giants have 35 men, it’s because they do. But a number of them shuttle between San Francisco and Sacramento.
All the Phillies did on Saturday night was beat Madison Bumgarner.
Friday night, they had the tying run on second base in the ninth inning before Pena’s terrific play on a slow roller by Tyler Goeddel saved Santiago Casilla, who got credit for the save. Oh, those River Cats.
As for the fight in the Phils, “It just goes to show you, it’s not that easy,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said before Sunday’s game. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. It’s a tough game. It’s a game that you know you’re probably going to lose 60 games in a 162-game schedule – that’s pretty much a done deal. Now you’re probably going to win 60. It’s what you do with the rest of them, really.
“Anybody can beat you on a given day. That’s the beauty of this game.”
It wouldn’t be fair to say the Phillies are a bunch of no-names. Their roster includes Rupp and Franco, although their first names are Cameron instead of Adolph and Maikel instead of Generalissimo. Cameron, of those two, looks like a real keeper. He’s the guy who beat Bumgarner on Saturday with a muscle job over the center-field fence.
Among the Giants know-names, pitcher Johnny Cueto was supposed to make it easy for San Francisco on Sunday. When the 11-game winner strolled to the mound in the fourth with the four-run lead, you figured it was time to figure out a way home to beat the traffic.
But he got himself in trouble when he plugged Franco in the side after Philly starter Aaron Nola plunked three Giants in less than four innings of work. The hit-by-pitch got both teams a warning from plate umpire Doug Eddings and the Phillies rolling for four runs in two innings.
It still ended well for San Francisco, as most of their games have recently.
As the season nears the end of the third of its six months, it looks as if it’s just beginning to get real good for the Giants.