By John Shea @real_johnshea on August 15, 2014
The playoff-hopeful San Francisco Giants have been straight up awful as of late, but are just half a game behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates for a spot in the NL Wild Card game. The heightened parity in the NL has enabled the Giants to remain in contention despite registering an ugly 21-36 record since June 9. For the Giants to "earn" a postseason bid in the 2014 MLB playoffs, they need to achieve five things.
It's no secret that scoring first greatly enhances a team's chances of winning. The Giants have failed to score first in each of their previous six games and were recently mired in a five-game losing streak largely because of it. San Francisco is 46-12 on the season when tallying the game's first run whereas they're just 17-45 when failing to score before the opposition. The Giants need to be more aggressive in trying to push across early runs.
It might seem like a moot point, but the Giants are flat out tougher to beat when they hit home runs, whether it be a Michael Morse solo shot or a Buster Posey grand slam. The Giants are 43-18 (.705) on the season when they hit at least one home run. The Giants' next four-bagger will be their 100th, a feat they didn't achieve until September in 2013. A Giants player hasn't homered since Pablo Sandoval's two-run shot in Milwaukee on August 9.
Ryan Vogelsong has been the Giants' most reliable starter in the month of August, allowing just four earned runs in 23.0 innings pitched across three starts. The Giants need to take advantage of Vogelsong's hot streak, especially considering the inconsistency of Tim Lincecum. The Giants have failed to supply Vogelsong with any run support in his last five home starts, a major contributing factor to their pathetic 8-22 home record since June.
On paper, the Giants' weak schedule down the stretch gives them an advantage over the Cardinals and Pirates, but it hasn't played out that way. The Giants play just 15 more games against teams with a winning record, including six crucial September matchups against the Dodgers, who play a similarly weak schedule. The Giants have 27 games remaining against NL bottom-feeders, including seven contests against the San Diego Padres in late September.
Although the Giants have succumbed to a seemingly disastrous 5.5-game NL West deficit to the Dodgers, they still have a chance to overtake their long-time rival to win the division. The Giants need to win both remaining series against LA and also get some help from Dodgers' opponents. The Giants won seven of the first 10 games against LA this season before being swept at home last month. Beating LA is a must in order to make the MLB playoffs.
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