With Thursday comes the first day of September, which marks the beginning of the end for the 2016 regular season. For the San Francisco Giants, that means it’s time to get back on track and play like a championship-caliber team, or…not and fall out of the playoff race.
After beating Arizona, 4-2, on Wednesday to split a two-game series, the Giants sit a game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost, 7-0, in Colorado in the front end of a doubleheader. (They just started the second game at the time of publish.) Yes, they have squandered a big division lead, but being a game back it’s exactly a horrible place to be: a little more than 24 hours from now, they could potentially be tied atop the National League West.
But where they are today or tomorrow in the standings matters little if they don’t elevate their play over these final 30 games. They’re going to be tested mercilessly right off the, urr, bat, as the first day of September is also the first day of a 10-game road trip for the Giants. It’s also the first day of a four-game series at Wrigley Field. Which, yes, means they’re going up against the best team in baseball.
Manager Bruce Bochy and closer Santiago Casilla will both have to be on their games this September if the Giants have any hope of reaching the postseason. (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
Then they head to Colorado for three games, followed by a three-game set in Arizona. The downside of these six games is that they’re against division rivals who will be motivated to make the Giants’ path to the postseason a hard one. The upside side is that neither the Rockies nor the Diamondbacks are very good. Still, it’s a rough 10-game stretch, especially considering it comes so late in the season.
But then the Giants come for seven games—three against San Diego and four against St. Louis. Who knows what the standings will look like two weeks from now, but at the moment the Giants and the Cardinals are the two Wild Card teams, with the Cardinals 1½ games behind the Giants.
So, 17 games into September, the Giants will have played eight against serious playoff contenders and nine against division rivals. That’s followed by seven games in Southern California, first with three games against the Dodgers and then four with the Padres.
At this point, the Giants will have played 24 games in September, including 17 on the road. The nice thing is that they finish the season with six home games—three against the Rockies and the final three against the Dodgers.
The Giants’ offense has been better lately, thanks in large part to a Joe Panik resurgence. (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
So, let’s review. Of the Giants’ 30 games in September (and the first two days of October), 17 are on the road, 22 are against division rivals, 16 are against playoff contenders. (Obviously, there’s some overlap here. The Dodgers, for instance, are playoff contenders, division rivals, and hosts of some of those road games.)
I’m not going to lie: it’s going to be a tough month for the Giants. It’ll be some tough sledding. It’s hard road ahead. It’ll test their resolve. (Am I missing any clichés?)
That’s not to say they can’t get through these 30 games with more wins than losses, or at least with more wins than the Dodgers. Because, really, if they’re World Series-worthy, no team or succession of teams should be too challenging for them. And thus they should be able to beat up on their weaker division opponents, prove that the Dodgers fit in that category, and at least split with the Cubs and the Cardinals.