No matter how you look at it, no matter whom you’d like to blame (ahem ... bullpen), the San Francisco Giants have been miserable in the second half this season.
Since the All-Star break, when the Giants owned the best record in baseball at 57-33 (.633), no National League team has performed worse than the Giants, who have gone 23-38 (.377) the past 10 weeks.
Not the Phillies, not the Braves, not the Reds, not the Brewers, not the Padres, not the Diamondbacks.
Only the American League’s Minnesota Twins, 23-40 in the second half and losers of 90-plus games for the fifth time in the last six seasons, can save the Giants from being the worst of the worst in the second half.
But, as is often the case in baseball, hope remains.
San Francisco has yet to be eliminated in the chase for the N.L. West title, but trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers by five games with 11 to play pretty much takes that out of the equation.
The more realistic path to the postseason would be to grab one of two N.L. wild-card berths.
The Giants awoke Wednesday morning in a three-way tie with the reigning N.L. champion New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals for the wild cards. All three clubs were 80-71.
Let’s look at some of the scenarios that could come into play over the final 11 games, and beyond, should two or more of the teams remain tied after 162 games.
What the Giants have left – San Francisco concludes a three-game series with Los Angeles on Wednesday, then heads south for four games at San Diego. After an off day Monday, the team heads back to the Bay Area for three against Colorado and three more against the Dodgers. The Giants were 3-4 against the Mets and Cardinals this season, so they’re stymied in the head-to-head category.
At this point, the Giants are 8-7 against the rival Dodgers, 9-6 against the Padres and 8-8 against the Rockies.
San Francisco has played well against Los Angeles at AT&T Park, taking three of four in April and two of three in June. Of course, those series were before the All-Star break. They’ve also won four of seven from Colorado at AT&T. The problem, really, is with San Diego, specifically Petco Park, where the Giants are only 3-3 this year and were swept in a three-game set coming out of the break.
What the Cardinals have left – St. Louis probably has the toughest road ahead. The Cardinals finish with a road game against the Rockies, against whom they’re 4-1 this year, then travel to face the best team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs, for three at Wrigley Field. The good news is St. Louis has played much better on the road this season (47-30) than at home (33-41). Weird. The Cardinals own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Giants and are tied with the Mets. St. Louis has the best divisional record at the moment, but that could change with 10 games against N.L. Central opponents.
After Chicago, the Cardinals head home for four against the Reds, against whom they’re 8-7, and three against the Pirates, against whom they have a losing record (7-9). What’s worse, Pittsburgh has won five of seven at Busch Stadium.
What the Mets have left – New York probably has the easiest schedule of the three. The Mets conclude a series Wednesday against the Braves, then entertain the Phillies for four. After that, they head to Miami for three with the Marlins, get an off day Sept. 29 and close the regular season with three at Philadelphia. New York is 3-3 against the Cardinals and is 33-32 against the N.L. East with 11 games to play against divisional foes.
While New York is only 9-9 against Atlanta, ageless wonder Bartolo Colon will pitch the series finale at Citi Field. The Mets have done well against the Phillies in the Big Apple and against the Marlins in South Beach, twice taking two of three against those clubs, in those venues.
Here’s a look at some wild-card tiebreaker scenarios:
▪ If the two wild-card teams have matching records, the team with the better head-to-head record would host the wild-card game. If the teams split their season series, the team with the better record within its division would host.
▪ If two teams are tied for the second wild-card spot, they would play a one-game playoff Oct. 3. The above-mentioned tiebreaker scenarios would determine the host. The winner would travel to play the No. 1 wild-card winner Oct. 5
▪ If there is a three-way tie for the two wild cards, the teams would be designated Team A, Team B and Team C based on the above tiebreaking criteria (Teams A and B get two cracks at making the postseason, while Team C would get just one shot.).
Team A would host Team B on Oct. 3. The winner is the host for the Oct. 5 wild-card game. Who would be the opponent?
On Oct. 4, the loser of the Team A-Team B matchup would travel to face Team C, and the winner of that game would advance to the Oct. 5 wild-card game. The winner of the wild-card game would travel to take on the Cubs,starting Oct. 7. So somebody could find themselves in three win-or-go-home games before even boarding a plane for Chicago.
Who says the wild card hasn’t added excitement to the pennant races?