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The Giants are where no one expected them to be: It’s an ‘even year’


Chris Brown-USA TODAY Sports


The Giants are not quite where they want to be.

But they’re also not where most expected them to be.

The Giants are a .500 ballclub that is tied for a wild-card spot in a season whose very existence — taking place alongside a pandemic, without fans in the stands and with an expanded postseason — is just about unbelievable. So is this Giants (26-26) success, modest as it may be, as it has positioned them in the eighth seed, tied with Cincinnati and Milwaukee with one week of the season to go. Eight games in seven days, all at Oracle Park, await the Giants, four against Colorado before four (including a doubleheader) against San Diego.

For a club that lost Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith then watched Buster Posey opt out, this was supposed to be the time of the year when it’s playing out the string. (Or is that a strand in this abbreviated season?)

Instead, there could be a showdown in Los Angeles if the Giants play well.

“I think it’s worth calling out that very few expected us to be in this position,” Gabe Kapler said after the Giants’ 14-2 victory at the Coliseum on Sunday, the bats exploding to help them avoid a sweep. “We had realistic expectations, but we believed in ourselves as a group, as a unit. I think we’ve continued to believe in ourselves even through some pretty difficult times that includes some pretty gut-wrenching losses, it includes some times we’ve been down early in games and we’ve continued to be resilient and fight back and battle back in those games.

“We know that we haven’t faced our last test this season. I imagine that we’re going to have several more tough moments before this is all said and done — we’re prepared for it.”

They will need to be prepared for Colorado, who could be absent Nolan Arenado (shoulder), a losing club they’ve gone just 2-4 against. A sweep would go a long way toward building equity for the final four games of the season, as they are 1-5 against the Padres, who look like a serious NL contender. They’re 6-16 against above-.500 squads, which does not bode well for their chances if they do squeeze into the postseason.

Of course, the 2010, ’12 and ’14 Giants were never the favorites, either.

“It’s something that we never really think about. But I think we all have a pretty good idea that nobody expected us to be in this position,” Brandon Crawford said over Zoom after knocking a grand slam, his sixth homer of the year. “But I don’t think anybody really expected us to be in that position in the years that we won, either.”

Crawford (and Brandon Belt) helped craft the legacy that these Giants are trying to follow, if by mentality rather than strength. Those San Francisco clubs were carried by pitching, and while the bullpen has come around and the rotation can be a weapon, the Giants bats have hit their way toward contention.

They had been shut down by strong A’s pitching the past two days, but Mike Minor was vulnerable, beginning with Chadwick Tromp’s third-inning homer, the first of three Giants long balls.

“If you … think about those [analysts] and the beginning of the season that just [gave] us absolutely no shot,” said a fired-up Tromp, who came over from the Reds organization but apparently knows his Giants history. “… This is baseball. It’s also an even year. I mean, come on now.

“I feel like everybody in the clubhouse, actually we all believe in each other. And it’s just the little details that we do on a daily basis, just the conversations that we have, the meetings that we have. And it just feels like everybody is understanding their role. And collectively, we’re making this happen.”

They are peering up at the seven-seed Phillies, who saw Bryce Harper leave Sunday’s game with back stiffness, and now have four in Washington and three in Tampa. The Giants, at .500, are tied with the Reds and Brewers, NL Central foes about to play three against each other, with the Giants rooting against a sweep.

“We’re going home right now with our spirits high,” said Tromp, in line for another start Monday with Johnny Cueto scheduled to pitch. “We have 100 percent confidence that we’re going to make this happen, and that’s all that matters right now.”

 

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