Say what you want about late September — but if the Giants have any reasonable chance to repeat, they have to draw a line in the sand and do it now.
The Giants dropped a 2-1 decision in St. Louis on Monday night, the kind of meat grinder that folks should expect the rest of the season. The eighth inning was the killer, with Gregor Blanco unable to grab a screamer in the gap and Brandon Crawford, who has enjoyed a wonderful two-way breakout season, breaking down at the wrong time, unable to turn a double play and throwing the ball away to allow the losing run.
“You saw it. He’s the best in the game. Throw just got away.”
The series is the Giants’ first of five in a row versus playoff contenders. Included are five more games against the first-place Cardinals, three against the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers and three each against the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates, the current wild-card leaders.
So who concocted this murderous schedule, anyway? John Fisher and Lew Wolff?
As it stands, the best chance for the Giants to earn a playoff berth is to beat out the Dodgers for the National League West title. The Champs know they can handle the Dodgers. The Bums know it, too. The teams will meet four times to close the regular season, but the series won’t be worth an avocado in The Garden at AT&T Park if the homies lose much more ground before then.
Here’s the rub: While the Giants face a make-or-break stretch in the next few weeks, the Dodgers have a very manageable one. In its next nine series, the SoCal club plays five teams that are worse than .500 at the moment.
As we know, the Giants rarely do things the easy way. That doesn’t figure to change any time soon.
BOOM OR BUST: Mike Leake (remember him?) will not return from the disabled list today and will miss his scheduled start. The Giants, of course, say it’s just a minor setback while his hamstring completely heals. Sure, right.
We’re starting to realize that the Giants’ front office made the wrong decision to acquire the less expensive Leake instead of Johnny Cueto or David Price, who have been lights out since their trades to the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays, respectively.
NATIONAL DISASTER: The Giants didn’t just sweep a series against the Washington Nationals last weekend. They pushed manager Matt Williams another step closer toward the unemployment line.
After the Nationals signed Matt Scherzer last offseason, they were the best team since the 1976 Cincinnati Reds, we were told. Months later, they’re one game below .500 despite the sixth-highest Opening Day payroll in baseball.
Fact is, the Nationals haven’t been the same since Williams’ lame-brained decision to pull Jordan Zimmermann in Game 2 of the NLDS last postseason, a rookie mistake if there ever was one. That’s what happens when you put an inexperienced driver behind the wheel of a Ferrari, let alone a one-time steroids user who didn’t deserve the job in the first place.
PENNANT PUSH: MLB Network made a key move for the stretch drive with the acquisition of free-agent analyst Tim Flannery, who will be in its lineup for the Detroit Tigers-Cubs showcase game today.
Flannery gives the network a table-setter for Eric Byrnes, Sean Casey and Cliff Floyd at the top of the order. He will continue to provide Giants analysis for CSN Bay Area.
TOUGH CROWD: The 49ers’ Mike Davis posted an Instagram of the $1,878.59 dinner bill that he picked up last weekend. The first-year running back didn’t name names, but it’s a safe guess that several more experienced teammates rolled it up on him.
“Welcome to the NFL, rookie,” Davis added.
The tab may not sound like a lot for a professional athlete, but for a fourth-round draft pick, it’s not chump change. Davis has a four-year deal worth about $2.75 million, of which only a $466,781 signing bonus is guaranteed. If he never plays a regular season game, a couple grand is a lot to invest on filet mignon and Dom Perignon.
Memo to rookies: Stick with In-N-Out Burger at any team outing in the future.
EYES WIDE SHUT: Yep, Raiders running back Trent (Wrong Way) Richardson is in midseason form already, all right.
In the preseason opener, Richardson turned a 5-yard touchdown into a 2-yard gain when he ran smack dab into three St. Louis Rams defenders, a play that was the butt end of the Internet world. If the veteran had made a simple cut to the left, he would have found a hole wider than the San Andreas Fault.
Paging Roy Helu! Paging Roy Helu! Your backup role is ready!
HIGHER CALLING?: Quarterback Tim Tebow scored a touchdown in his Eagles debut, but far more impressive was the standing ovation that he received from Philadelphia fans who are so bad they beat up each other.
Forget the Hall of Fame. If Tebow can tame the devil, he really should be a candidate for sainthood.
AND JUSTICE FOR HARBAUGH: Is there no end to Jim Harbaugh’s bucket list?
Now we get word that Harbaugh visited the Supreme Court last spring, when the Michigan coach met Justice Clarence Thomas among others. He tried to convince the Nebraska fan to adopt the Wolverines as his second-favorite team.
“I got the feeling it would be a distant second,” said Harbaugh, who added, “He’s one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. It was a great thrill.”
By the way, Harbaugh also has a crush on Judge Judy of television fame. He visited the 72-year-old toughie in her courtroom and even nominated her for a Supreme Court position.
One of these days, Harbaugh will do something that really makes us go wow. You know, like win a football game.
THE LIST: Players the Cleveland Browns bypassed to take Trent Richardson at the third pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Matt Kalil, offensive tackle
Luke Kuechly, linebacker
Ryan Tannehill, quarterback
Michael Floyd, wide receiver
Kendall Wright, wide receiver
David DeCastro, guard
Dont’a Hightower, linebacker
Harrison Smith, safety
Doug Martin, running back