Bruce Bochy was telling the truth. A game in April is no less important — critical, was the word he used — as a game in August. But April is gone. So is the Giants’ lead. They are in second place now, behind the Dodgers, a team hailed and by some — Giants fans — hated.
A team against which San Francisco tonight begins a three-game series at Dodger Stadium.
And this one is critical. Especially for the Giants
Two more games in the series in L.A., then in September two more series, the first in Los Angeles, the other the final days of the regular season at AT&T. Maybe it all comes down to the end, maybe it concludes with a dramatic homer like Bobby Thomson’s in 1951, the “shot heard round the world.” Or maybe the Dodgers wrap it up earlier as they have done so often.
A collision of past and present, a rivalry that began in the 19th Century across a river in New York and continues some 150 years later across the country in California. Fighting: It was 51 years ago Monday that Juan Marichal hit John Roseboro with a bat. Flaunting: Tommy Lasorda blowing kisses to the angry fans at Candlestick Park.
All that history and so little mystery. Keep the hitters off balance. Scratch out a run — or for the Dodgers a team with a big payroll and big bats — power a few into the seats. Madison Bumgarner, “Mad Bum,” pitches the opener for San Francisco against Kenta Maeda. You figure Bumgarner has the advantage, but don’t figure on anything these days.
San Francisco did win two in a row from the Mets, then lost two in a row to the Mets. A division lead of eight games July 26 has become a division deficit of one game today. That’s a serious collapse. Also for Giants partisans falsely secure in the idea, this, an even year, 2016, was certainly a Giants year.
It was the late, great Yogi Berra, who correctly, if ungrammatically told us “In baseball you don’t know nothing.” What we do know 124 games into season is that the Giants’ offense is erratic — hey, they did score 18 runs the first two games against the Mets — and the relief pitching is imperfect.
What the Giants could use is a three-game winning streak, last done, July 8-10 against the D’Backs (that was actually four in a row, starting with a victory over Colorado.) San Francisco needs a burst to prove, to the players as much as the fans, the magic of spring hasn’t been lost forever in the fog of late summer.
Bochy, experienced, successful, has responded to the troubles of the last few weeks unemotionally. Maybe a wince or two, particularly when the Giants lost six in row and eight or nine in mid-July but no ranting or screaming — at least in public view.
But the Giants, the front office, the athletes, the support staff, are used to winning. And suddenly they’ not winning and tumbling down the standings behind the Dodgers, whose best player, pitcher Clayton Kershaw has been on the disabled list for a month.
The middle of last week, San Francisco was swept by the Pirates at AT&T. To enter the Giants clubhouse was to walk into a room of eerie silence and disbelief. Nobody quite could understand why and how.
“We’re taking some blows,” Bochy said. “We’ve lost some our mojo. But we’re resilient. This is a tough club.”
We’ll find how tough beginning tonight in Los Angeles.