The San Francisco Giants are headed to the post-season for the second time in three years. Following Saturday night’s 8-4 victory over the San Diego Padres, the Giants clinched the National League Western Division by holding an 11 game lead over the second-place Dodgers with only 10 games remaining on the schedule. The last time the Giants were in the postseason (2010) the team won its first championship in San Francisco.
It has been an up and down year for the Giants. Things started off promising, as the club still had the same lights out pitching that buoyed them to glory in 2010. Catcher Buster Posey was healthy again following a devastating leg injury he sustained in the early months of the 2011 season, an injury that effectively ruined the 2011 team’s chances. Newcomers Angel Pagan (center field) and Melky Cabrera (left field) added speed and promise to an offense that had historically struggled over the past several seasons.
Despite an improved offense, the Giants had other struggles throughout the year. Fierce and bearded closer Brian Wilson was lost very early in the year to an arm injury that required season-ending surgery. All-Star third baseman Pablo Sandoval landed on the disabled list twice for extended periods of time. To almost everyone’s surprise, two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum was one of the worst pitchers in baseball in the first half of the season.
Melky Cabrera was a huge bright spot for the club. He led all of Major League Baseball in hits and batting average more than two-thirds of the way through the season, but was suspended suddenly on August 15th for 50 games following a failed performance-enhancing drug test.
Even after losing one of their best all-around players in Cabrera, the Giants rallied like never before down the stretch. The Giants and Dodgers were tied for first place in the West when Cabrera was suspended.
The Dodgers took on more than $200 million in salary in what was the most financially substantial trading frenzy in the history of the sport. Los Angeles acquired superstars Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins and Adrian Gonzalez from the Boston Red Sox, in addition to injured star Carl Crawford (Red Sox), former star Josh Beckett (Red Sox), solid outfielder Shane Victorino (Phillies), utility infielder Nick Punto (Red Sox), starting pitcher Joe Blanton (Phillies), and relievers Randy Choate (Marlins) and Brandon League (Mariners). Despite having so many superstars, the Dodgers have struggled to score runs and are scuffling down the stretch. They currently trail in the wildcard standings by three games with only nine games remaining on the schedule. In stark contrast to the Dodgers, since Cabrera’s suspension the Giants have gone 25-10 (.714), a very impressive mark.
Now that we know the Giants will be in the postseason, it is uncertain whom they will oppose in the first round. The number one seed will face the wild card winner (the best non-first place team) while the second and third seeds will play each other. Right now, the Giants are the number three seed, so they will likely play either the Reds or Nationals in the National League Division Series beginning the weekend of October 6th and 7th. If the Giants remain the three seed, they will open the best-of-five series with two games at home, followed by at least one (and potentially three) games on the road. The starting rotation will likely be led by All-Star Matt Cain, who pitched the 22nd perfect game in MLB history and the first in Giants franchise history on June 13th, 2012 amd started and won the 2012 All-Star game.
The 2012 Giants are in many ways superior to the 2010 championship team. The offense is putting up great numbers while the pitching staff remains strong. The City lost its mind for the Giants in 2010. Will there be another parade down Market Street in 2012?