A difficult weekend bled into a difficult start to the week during a difficult season, a new hurdle appearing as soon as the Giants believed they had cleared the last.
The club, after a difficult beginning of the season, began winning and forcing its way into the playoff hunt. An Alex Dickerson COVID test postponed games Friday and Saturday, barricading all of the players and staff into San Diego hotel rooms as they awaited further test results to prove everyone was healthy and Dickerson’s test was a false positive. They lost both ends of a difficult doubleheader Sunday before heading to Seattle for a series that was scheduled to begin Tuesday, only to be canceled hours beforehand as the air quality was proving to be too difficult to play in.
A team from San Francisco that dealt with smoke so bad it turned the Bay Area sky orange last week is coming home to play games Wednesday and Thursday at Oracle Park, where they will be the road team and up to bat first.
“This is not easy,” Gabe Kapler admitted on a Zoom call. “But we’re fine, and we’re ready.”
The Giants flew into Seattle and saw skies with “very little visibility,” Kapler said, and then awoke to a fire-influenced overhead that was “even darker than it is right now.” They also heard the complaints of A’s players, including pitcher Jesus Luzardo saying he should not be “gasping for air” on the field, as he was in their series at T-Mobile Park.
Early Tuesday afternoon, after conversations with Giants players and front-office members, the Mariners and MLB, a joint decision was reached to relocate the games.
“There was some concern” from Giants players, Kapler said, with an AQI well into the 200s, which qualifies as “very unhealthy” air to breathe.
Wednesday’s game will take place at 6:45, with Thursday’s at 1:10. The Giants are 0-for-4 in doubleheaders that feature seven innings apiece this year, though Kapler denied that fact was a factor in splitting the games up rather than jamming them both into Wednesday. The teams had a mutual off-day Thursday, and Kapler said the Mariners were not certain they could board a plane to San Francisco in time to make a doubleheader work.
Kapler said his team would be prepared and has flip-flopped the starters, with Drew Smyly going Wednesday and Tyler Anderson on Thursday. It’s a hint of how much the team values Smyly, who was excellent before his IL trip and in his four innings off the IL, and wants him to make as many appearances down the stretch as possible.
They also received positive news on Kevin Gausman, whose MRI came up clean and expects to start in Oakland after the Mariners series, while Jeff Samardzija is being held back again in Sacramento, still in the wings as an insurance starter or reliever. Both bode well for a team that now will play 13 games in 12 days to finish the season, Tuesday’s surprise day off the last one — or at least they hope the last one — as they try to sprint toward a wild-card spot.
They’re coming home, in a series for which they will be the road team, to play in an area that is rife with wildfires though has seen improving air. All part of 2020 for the Giants.
“This is one of the things that we’ve practiced since the beginning of this season, which is, we know there are going to be challenges,” Kapler said before the team flew back. “There are going to be situations that we haven’t had to deal with in major league seasons in the past. But we need to be good within the construct of what the season hands us.”
Their hands are plenty full at the moment.