The San Francisco Giants dare you to dislike them. They defy you to watch them in this ballpark with these fans and these uniforms and this play-by-play team with this history and these characters and not jump — with both feet — aboard the Giants magic carpet to fly away forever. Unless you’re packing Dodgers fan baggage (likely due to the kind of self-loathing that breeds Dodgers fans) and hate weirdness and fun and everything good in the world; there is no chance you can watch more than a handful of innings this week and not fall head over heels in love with everything related to the San Francisco Giants.
At points this season, the Giants braintrust tried their hardest to drive you away. They made confounding personnel moves, retained an unlikable manager, and milked the arbitration clock of a can’t-miss prospect within an inch of madness. Yet here they are – in the playoffs for the first time since He left with more than a puncher’s chance to move on.
On second thought, maybe “puncher” is a misnomer. More like iron-jawed defender absorbing blows all night before planting one strategically-placed uppercut to end the fight. The Giants feature one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, so great they surrendered a grand total of 60 runs in the month of September, as good a way to punch a playoff ticket as you can think of.
One poorly timed slump by a divisional rival and the Giants were off to the races. Their offense is hardly bulletproof but a pitching staff as good as this gives you a chance to win nearly every night. The once-reviled manager showed a willingness to play rookies and unproven guys and huge seasons from Buster Posey and Andres Torres were his reward.
The Giants play host to the wild card winning Atlanta Braves. Both these teams experienced tremendous roster upheaval during the season, so looking at the head-to-head records (4-3 for the Braves) is pointless. The patient Braves don’t strike out much which works in their favor, though the Braves really struggled against power pitchers in 2010. Only managing a team-wide .644 OPS against hard-throwing hurler doesn’t bode well for Atlanta. With Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez lined up for Los Gigantes, it’s safe to say the ATLiens are about to get a full dose.
Does weather matter in baseball? Unlike football, I assume the Braves will appreciate getting out of the Atlanta heat. A nice bowl of San Fran evening air hits the spot, every time!
The Difference Maker
He is only a rookie, and perhaps not even the most impactful rookie in the series, but studies show Buster Posey is made of at least 15% magic. Minimum 15%, probably closer to 40%. After all of 400 plate appearances, Buster Posey’s name belongs among the truly elite offensive catchers in baseball. His flair for the dramatic is certainly appreciated.
The Giants rookie is a native Georgian, buying up half the stadium for his friends and family when the Giants traveled to Turner Field earlier this summer. During that series, Posey only managed a single and walk in 13 plate appearances. Can the phenom balance the increased media scrutiny and demands for his time during his first trip to the post-season?
Breakout star come feel-good story Andres Torres had surgery to correct exploding internal organs mere weeks ago yet he’s likely to play nearly every playoff game. If Torres is unable to go, one of the Giants half-dozen other outfielders must step to the fore.
Shove across one run a night and hope the pitching holds out. It really is that simple for the Giants. The Braves have a very patient core with some pop off the bench so the Giants cannot afford to be wild. Throughout his career walks will plague Jonathan Sanchez. Even all-world superfreak Tim Lincecum battled the free pass demons earlier this year. The Giants need not nibble; conditions should conspire to keep the ball in the yard and the Braves offense is tame enough to lay down before the mighty Giants staff.
Offensively the Giants rely on big hits from guys like Aubry Huff, Pat Burrell, and Jose Guillen. It’s the National League, things like this happen from time to time.
The Giants might not be anyone’s favorite to win the World Series but it won’t take long for them to become America’s Sweethearts. With easy charm they will quickly worm their way into the hearts of baseball purists and casual fans all the same.
Top-notch pitching and defense with a strong sense of history? The Giants are George Clooney – esteemed and stately and in no way offensive. Not likely to star in the biggest blockbusters but all over the prestige pieces and fringe awards.