By Morris Phillips
What the Giants need to happen, didn’t happen tonight.
At Citizen’s Bank, Nick Castellanos and Bryson Stott hit majestic home runs and Noah Syndergaard improved to 3-0 following his trade to Philadelphia as the Phillies beat the Reds, 4-1.
That means the Giants will take the field in Detroit on Tuesday needing to make up 6 1/2 games on either the Phillies or the Padres, and 5 games on the Brewers in their final 41 games to qualify for the post-season.
After winning on Sunday against the Rockies, 9-8 in 11 innings, they seem up for the challenge.
“There are still signs of life in here,” said Evan Longoria, after his grand slam and game-ending catch and tag play highlighted his best performance of the season.
“We’ve been really streaky. We win five, we lose five, you know what I mean?” Jakob Junis said. “Anyway to shorten those losing streaks and get back on track… I think going into the off day, especially, losing this game would’ve been really tough. Thankfully we pulled it out.”
The Giants (60-61) were headed in the right direction with five straight wins, but followed them with four, consecutive losses. Rollercoaster rhythm won’t close the gap.
The biggest positive for the Giants is the three clubs they’re chasing haven’t run and hid, and they only have to catch two of them. There aren’t any other moving parts. For a wild card chase, the small number of contending clubs is rare.
With the NL playoffs incorporating six teams for the first time, we’ll say 87 wins is the mininum the Giants need to have a realistic chance. But it’s never just that, it’s posting a dominant record in the head-to-head match-ups, and there are 11 of those.
That points us to the home stand beginning a week from tonight: three against the Padres (68-56), followed by the three against the Phillies (67-55). The Giants also visit Milwaukee for two on September 8, an oddly-placed doubleheader that is preceded by a series in Los Angeles and followed by a trip to Chicago with no travel days.
Survive all that and just maybe the Giants remain mathematically alive for the season’s final series: three with the Padres at Oracle Park.
Daunting? You bet. This theoretical challenge requires a 27-14 finish, and it’s got to be the right 27 wins against the critical opponents.
Baseball-reference numbers don’t usually favor unlikelihoods. That’s the case here, the baseball historical and statistical website says the Giants have just a 3.2 percent chance of running this gauntlet.
What aspects provide hope for the Giants? The Phillies lost seven of 10 before beating the Reds on Monday. The Padres have nine games remaining with the Dodgers, who have their foot on the gas despite an insurmountable 18 game lead in the NL West. And the Brewers (65-56) have a weird spirit enveloping them in the wake of the unpopular trade of closer Josh Hader to San Diego.
Carlos Rodon is nearing career bests in starts (24 so far, 28 his personal best), wins (11,13), innings pitched (140.1, 165) and of course, strikeouts (179, 185). The strikeout mark could be eclipsed Tuesday night at Comerica Park in Rodon’s matchup with the Tigers’ Drew Hutchison.