AT&T PARK — Buster Posey didn’t even need to hear the entire question.
“No question,” the catcher declared when asked if Matt Moore’s near no-hitter of the Los Angeles Dodgers could prove to be the turning point in the San Francisco Giants’ ugly second half. “No question about it.”
When Corey Seager’s bloop single dropped into right field on Thursday night, Posey crumpled to the ground. Moore, who had just lost his no-hit bid with two outs in the ninth, barely flinched.
In his short time with the Giants, Moore has proven to be as cool headed as anyone in the clubhouse.
In the biggest game of the Giants’ season, the lefty crafted 8.2 innings of one-hit ball — the best start of his major league career. He ensured the Giants would avoid a crushing three-game sweep to the team they’re chasing and he did so in emphatic fashion.
While Posey believes Moore’s gem could be the momentum-shifting game that the Giants have needed so badly, just a couple lockers down, Brandon Crawford struck a less optimistic tone.
“I think we all hope so. I think there’s been a couple of instances that we thought could maybe turn us around and it hasn’t happened yet,” the shortstop said. “I think we’re all hoping that something kind of changes and we start winning games again.”
The reality is the Giants still don’t know who they are exactly — even as September looms. Are they the club that went a MLB-best 57-33 before the All-Star Break or the team that had the worst second-half record as of Saturday night?
“Well, obviously I’m going to say that I think the more accurate representation is the first half,” Posey said with a laugh that was somewhere between a scoff and a chuckle.
Crawford offered a more candid assessment.
“That’s a tough question to answer,” Crawford admitted. “I think probably somewhere in the middle, which is still a really good team and I think a team that can go into the postseason and surprise some people.”
The biggest difference between the first-half champions and the second-half flops is how they’ve fared in one-run games. Before the break, the team was 20-10. Since then, the Giants are 4-9.
“In the first half we found a way to win no matter what it was but we won a lot of close games,” Crawford said. “Here in the second half, we’ve found a way to just lose. So, I don’t know what it is exactly.”
There are many layers to the answer that Crawford and his teammates are seeking.
Injuries have spoiled the respective summers of Joe Panik and Hunter Pence. Brandon Belt hasn’t looked anything like the guy who earned his first and well-deserved trip to the All-Star Game. When the Braves arrived in town, Belt had a lower second-half OPS than Madison Bumgarner.
At the top of the rotation, Bumgarner and co-ace Johnny Cueto haven’t matched their first-half dominance when both were in the middle of the Cy Young conversation.
Bumgarner entered the break with a 1.94 ERA, but has a 3.71 mark since. When Cueto arrived at Petco Park to start for the National League squad, he owned a 2.47 ERA. He’s run up a 3.91 ERA after it.
Both Bumgarner and Cueto have allowed eight homers in as many starts. That’s emblematic of the team-wide struggle, which has seen the pitching staff serve up the fourth-most long balls in the NL.
At the plate, power has been nowhere to be found. Posey has left the park just once. As a team, the Giants have connected on the fewest second-half home runs in baseball.
The schedule has also played a part in the Giants’ puzzling season.
San Francisco went 19-7 in its final 26 games entering the break and all 26 of those games came against teams that were under .500 at the time. To begin the second half, the Giants played teams that were better than .500 in nine of their first 13 series.
The good news for the second-place G-Men is that the scheduling gods are now smiling on them. Of the final 33 games, 19 come against sub-.500 teams. The Giants have made a habit of beating up on such opponents to the tune of a 46-29 record.
History is also on the Giants’ side. Back in 2014, the team was under .500 in the final four months of the season. Posey said that memory helps avoid a “doom-and-gloom outlook” in the present. So too did Crawford.
“I definitely think that’s probably the biggest example that we can use,” Crawford said. “And a lot of the guys in this clubhouse have been through that before and we ended up winning the World Series. So, I think we all are just trying to kind of pull from that and turn it around.”