The San Francisco Giants entered Monday’s doubleheader against the Colorado Rockies just 4 1/2 games out of the second National League Wild Card. It’s close enough that a vocal segment of fans postulated that, hey, maybe the Giants could make a run.
That kind of thinking is why San Francisco lost 187 games over the last two seasons — chasing illusory success while stocking the roster with expensive and aging veterans in an attempt to recapture past glories.
If the Giants were to make a run, they would need the services of one aging veteran in particular: Evan Longoria. Hitting .284 since the start of June, the San Francisco third baseman paced a group that led the big leagues in home runs in the month of July. He was placed on the injured list Monday morning with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, while the Giants called up reliever Ray Black.
Longoria — who struggled out of the gates in his second season with the Giants, hitting .213 over the first two months of the season— had recently gotten red hot, coinciding with San Francisco’s run of seven wins in nine games. Since the beginning of July, Longoria was responsible for six of the Giants’ big league-best 18 homers, hitting .400 with 12 RBIs, two doubles and nine runs scored, slugging 1.067.
Then, he left Sunday’s win over the Milwaukee Brewers in the fifth inning with discomfort in his foot. San Francisco still won, 8-3, but losing one of its most productive — and most experienced — hitters for at least the next 10 days leaves a big hole in the lineup.
The Giants do have other dangerous hitters. Buster Posey has hit .389 over his last 10 games, with a homer, three doubles and eight RBIs, and Alex Dickerson has hit .340 with four homers, two triples and four doubles, driving in 15 runs over his first 17 games. Longoria’s absence, though, means the bench is shortened.
Longoria has dealt with plantar fasciitis in both feet in the past, and missed time in the spring of 2017 to rest his left foot — the same foot that’s bothering him now. If he’s down for any length of time, Pablo Sandoval would be forced to be the everyday third baseman, and his production could suffer.
Sandoval has thrived as a part-time super-backup this season, worth 1.5 WAR, his best value since 2014 (3.4). Part of that has been due to the fact that he’s not having to go through an everyday grind, and even that’s starting to wear off.
Through June 21, Sandoval was hitting .291, but over his last 15 games (nine starts), he’s hitting just .211, though he does have two homers and seven RBIs.
With Longoria out for the crucial stretch of the season just before the trade deadline, when executives make the decisions to buy or sell, fans and some in the organization have to face a now-very-stark reality: This isn’t a team that’s going to contend, and certainly not without its hottest hitter.