Sunday, October 3, 2010

Obligatory Playoff Series To End All Playoff Series Post

I’m in the process of preparing for some midterms, so there’s not a ton that can bring me out of my protective shell, surrounded by books and notes and such. A series in which the Padres would need to sweep the Giants in San Francisco, and then win one final playoff game back in San Diego to make the playoffs, certainly does the trick. The Giants simply need one win in either of the next two games after dropping tonight’s contest. Many San Franciscans expected last night to be the clincher, with Cain on the mound to celebrate his 26th birthday.

However, Cain’s birthday celebration didn’t go quite as planned. Home runs by Ryan Ludwick, Adrian Gonzalez, and Matt Stairs crashed the party, allowing the Pads to go up 6-0 in the 5th and chase Cain after the fourth inning. The Giants mounted a comeback against Padres starter (and former Michigan Wolverine) Clayton Richard and San Diego’s bullpen, but eventually fell short as the game ended 6-4. 

Tonight’s game wasn’t much better for the men in orange and black. Bruce Bochy gave Barry Zito the ball, while Tim Stauffer took the hill for the Padres. Zito started the game quite inauspiciously, loading the bases and then walking in two runs in the first frame. Zito was chased in the third, giving up 3 earned runs (four total) in his shortest outing of the season. Stauffer went 6.1 and gave up a single run on a Juan Uribe solo shot. The Padres’ MLB-leading bullpen finished the job, and the rest was history. The game ended 4-2, and the Giants now have only two chances to win the West. 

Tomorrow’s contest will pit the Giants’ Jonathan Sanchez against Padres’ young stud Mat Latos. Latos has been great all year but has put up a 6.21 ERA in September. He’s had some pretty bad luck during that span, but suffice to say, it’s been a poor month.

If the Padres do manage to sweep, a single playoff game in San Diego will take place. Taking the mound in that contest would be Tim Lincecum, who was moved up a day to pitch on full rest for a potential game 163, and Jon Garland, who’s struggled to a 0.8 WAR season. 

I’d give the Giants a pretty good shot of winning at least one of these two. Sanchez has shown a level of consistency he simply hasn’t had before in his career. He’s put up 2.6 WAR and a sparkling 1.17 ERA in September (3.41 FIP, still better than any month since April).  With Latos in a serious funk, the Giants have a pretty good chance to take the division without the inconvenience of having to go down to San Diego for game 163. 

If it does come to game 163, the Giants still have an ace in the bag in the form of back to back Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. The Padres will counter with the aforementioned Garland. While Garland will be pitching with home-field advantage, I’d say you have to give the advantage to the Giants.

So we’ll see what happens, but I think the Giants end up playing playoff ball whatever happens tomorrow. I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams end up in the playoffs, as the Braves have run into a serious roadblock and are now fighting for their playoff lives against a Phillies team that has clinched the best record on the Senior Circuit. With a loss, the Braves will finish with the same record as both the Padres and Giants if the Pads win tomorrow, resulting in a second playoff game in which the loser of game 163 would head to Atlanta to play for the Wild Card. Whatever happens, it should be an extremely interesting weekend.

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