It is hard to explain what to make of the 2016 San Francisco Giants. They were the best team in the game at the All-Star break, as I wrote about here. They were also one of the worst in the game in the second half of the season, as I wrote about here. Yet, here we are in October, in 2016, and the Giants are back in the playoffs. Is it their pitching? Is it their defense? Is it their timely hitting? Or is it that the year on the calendar can be divided by two.
The Giants have done this before. In 2010 and 2014, they waited until the final day of the regular season to clinch a playoff berth. They won the National League West in 2010 on the final day of the season, beating the San Diego Padres in a thriller, and in 2014, they made it in as a Wild Card team, having to travel to Pittsburgh for a one game playoff. Two years later, they are back in the same spot all over again, except this time they were in New York.
After an absolute thriller that saw two titans going head to head, the Giants and another unlikely hero joined the history books of Giant lore. This time, his name was Conor Gillaspie. Meanwhile, the Paul Bunyan figure that masquerades as a starting pitcher shone brightest, and Madison Bumgarner sent the Giants to a National League Division Series matchup with the best team in baseball.
The Chicago Cubs won 103 games. The Giants won 87. On paper, this shouldn’t even be a series. On paper, the Giants are severe underdogs. But, the Giants have seen this script before. There was more talent on rosters in Philadelphia, Texas, Detroit, St. Louis, Washington, and Kansas City. The Giants weren’t favored in any of those series, and yet somehow, someway, found a way to win. The Cubs have won the first two games of the series, but the Giants have been there before, too. If there’s any team that could come back from a 0-2 deficit against the Cubs, it’s these Giants.
How do the Giants keep doing this? Did they make a deal with the Baseball Gods for all the breaks to go there way in October? Do they have some secret formula no other team has quite mastered the ingredients of?
One thing is crystal clear: When the brightest of lights are on the Giants, they play their best baseball.
In the offseason, I wrote a piece on the Giants winning in 2016 because of the “Even Year Magic” and how the reason they could win the World Series this year was the “Magic Wondoo” of 2016 vs. 2015 and more importantly, talent.
That talent shone through in the first half of the season and seemed missing in action the second half of the season. However, the Giants came into the NLDS on a five game win streak that included wins over the top pitchers in all of baseball, including Clayton Kershaw and most recently Noah Syndergaard. They have shown they can beat playoff caliber pitchers the past week, and they now head back to San Francisco with the season on the line against last year’s Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta.
Will the Giants have what it takes to continue to defy the odds? I wouldn’t bet against them in an even year.