When San Francisco arrived in L.A. to play the Dodgers on August 31, the NL West was very much up for grabs. Just 3.5 games separated the two clubs, Jake Arrieta had just tossed a no-hitter at Chavez Ravine, and L.A. would face its rival from up north seven more times before the season’s end.
One convincing Dodgers sweep later, the Giants’ 2015 season sits on the brink with a seven-game deficit in both the Wild Card and division race. The defending champs are a few bad bounces away from missing the playoffs and continuing the odd-year storyline.
Game One in L.A. was a classic duel between the longtime rivals and eventually ended after 14 innings with Adrian Gonzalez delivering a walk-off single. After that, L.A.’s two-headed pitching monster got to work. Zack Greinke pitched shutout ball into the eighth inning en route to a 2-1 win in the second game, then Clayton Kershaw went berserk with a complete-game, 15-strikeout masterpiece to close out the sweep (also a score of 2-1).
San Francisco went from a contender to a potential bust-out with just 29 games to play in the season. To make the playoffs, the Giants would either have to lose seven fewer games than the Dodgers or Cubs over the final month. Judging by the roll L.A.’s tandem is on, that climb looks impossible for San Francisco, especially with its own pitching staff in trouble heading into September.
Overcoming a seven-game deficit to Chicago’s North Siders seems equally improbable. Even with most of their games remaining against the dregs of the National League, the Giants have to play at too high a level to pass one of the teams leading the pack (barring a collapse of Billy Goat proportions).
Put another way, if the Dodgers or Cubs played .500 ball (15-15) the rest of the way, San Francisco would have to go 22-7 to overcome them. That’s a tall order for a team struggling to stay above .500 at 69-64. Looking at the rotation of Vogelsong, Peavy, Heston, and Leake after Bumgarner, it seems downright impossible.
On the bright side for the pride of the Golden Gate, the Giants play seven against Colorado, six against Arizona, and six against San Diego before the season closes. Theoretically, that schedule would favor them as L.A. has a few tough draws against Anaheim and Pittsburgh left. Head-to-head, L.A. will play its northern rival four more games in San Francisco at the end of September
Unfortunately, the Giants may be eliminated by the time the boys in blue arrive in town for that series. With the magic number to clinch the NL West already at 24 and 23 games until the Dodgers head to AT&T Park, the chances are slimmer than ever that San Francisco can even the score in time. (With the way Greinke and Kershaw are pitching, you can throw the stats and opponents out the window.
For the Cubs, seven games against the Pirates and six against the Cardinals loom. The Giants’ only shot is Chicago getting bludgeoned by the opposition when Arrieta isn’t pitching while the San Francisco rotation rights the ship and steers the club back into contention.
Baseball Prospectus says the reigning World Series champions have a 7% chance of making the postseason. Considering the obstacles the Giants face, that number seems high.
Statistics, current as of September 3, were sourced at Baseball Reference.