So if you’re convinced that the Los Angeles Dodgers are better than the San Francisco Giants, well, you probably should be. Indeed, the only thing preventing the Dodgers from sweeping the field between now and November is not enough Clayton Kershaws.
But you Giants aficionados knew it had to play out this way – win by nine, lose by nearly twice that, and then get Kershaw’d. It is the way of your people.
Yes, one more weekend in a season that demands that sort of spasmodic response. This has been a twitchy season for a lot of teams, and few quite so much as the Giants.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Kershaw, Kemp put Dodgers three up on Giants]
But it is how they are, and how they are going to continue to be. They are a team with an ace, a third starter who was hanging onto the major leagues by his teeth two months ago, and three fourth starters. They are a team that scores runs in massive clots and then goes through weeks at a time mastering the art of the something-to-something else-to-3 double play. They thrive, they despair, they cause their fans to despair, they rise from the coroner’s slab, and then they look around and realize they are just like the Braves and Pirates and Cardinals and Brewers, only slightly better, because they banked a lot of good results early before anyone know just how loopy they were.
So frankly, this Dodgers series, in which they won 9-0, lost 17-0, and then lost 4-2, was exactly a microcosm of a season built just for them. And here they stand, three behind the Dodgers but 4 ½ ahead of the Brewers with 13 to play, and staring down the barrel of – get this, Nostradamians everywhere – a Wednesday matchup between Madison Bumgarner and Gerrit Cole.
Of course, the Pirates could jigger their rotation so that they could pitch former Giant Francisco Liriano by skipping his scheduled start the previous Saturday and having him go on eight days’ rest. And the Giants, who are typically loath to mess with their pitchers’ schedules, would have to move theirs around even more, since Bumgarner is scheduled to close the regular season on Sunday. And he’s not starting on two days’ rest, trust us on that. Bruce Bochy would rather let the Pirates start with the bases loaded and put in his son before he allowed that to occur.
The alternative, keeping everyone on a regular turn, would be for the Giants to pitch Ryan Vogelsong and the Pirates to counter with Vance Worley. The winner then could have a regular rotation from that point, and the loser wouldn’t have to worry about it.
At first glance, it is hard to see how anyone would be comfortable with a Vogelsong-Worley matchup. Worley missed the first two months with an injury, and Vogelsong put together a strong May and August and meh months otherwise. It is, to be fair, not the overwhelming all-the-chips-in-the-middle-of-the-table matchup people imagine these games to bring.
But in the four-game history of the play-in game, the starters, other than Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto last year and Texas’ Yu Darvish in 2012, have not been the bright lights of their rotations. Liriano, Alex Cobb and Danny Salazar last year, Kyle Lohse, Kris Medlin and Joe Saunders the year before. The clear indication is that the managers did not wreck their rotations to jump their best arm into the line to get out of the trap game.
So maybe this is Vogelsong-Worley. Or maybe Bochy and Clint Hurdle decide to veteran strong with Jake Peavy-Edinson Volquez. Or Tim Hudson-Jeff Locke, if they both follow their schedules based on the next-man-up philosophy that works so much better when one has a deep rotation.
In short, however this ends, it will end in a perfectly Giant way. And nobody will be able to explain how it did, or why. And some things should remain mysteries, wouldn’t you say?