The Giants and Nationals are similar in many ways — down to their worn closers who have struggled this season. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

The Giants and Nationals are similar in many ways — down to their worn closers who have struggled this season. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

October looms larger for Giants, Nationals

AT&T PARK — As Dusty Baker sat in the visiting dugout of the park he once called home, the Washington Nationals first-year manager admitted the possibility of a return trip in October had already crossed his mind.

“I look at that but it’s hard to stress [that] to the team — to look that far ahead,” Baker explained.

Based on the current standings, Baker’s Nationals would meet Bruce Bochy’s Giants in the division series if the postseason began tomorrow.

“It’s something that’s hard for some of the guys who haven’t been [in the playoffs] to look that far ahead,” Baker said. “But I look at that. I always look at that.”

The wide gap in postseason pedigree is what separates the pair of National League heavyweights. Bochy has led the Giants to three rings since 2010. The Nationals haven’t made it to October’s biggest stage since arriving in the nation’s capital in 2005. The closest Baker came to winning the title was in 2002 when the Giants lost in Game 7 to the Anaheim Angels.

Despite the discrepancy in their playoff resumes, the clubs have plenty in common. Both boast top-heavy rotations that were made for October. Up until Saturday afternoon, they also both had suspect bullpens in need of help.

“Well, really I haven’t thought about it,” Bochy said when asked if he had noticed the parallels between the two staffs. “But I think you look at the record. I think you have to look at the pitching — they are both similar and they’re the reason both teams are where they’re at.”

Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto headline the Giants staff, while Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer lead the Nationals.

Any of those four starters has the potential to take over a playoff series, but none of them can match Bumgarner’s track record. During the Giants’ run to the World Series in 2014, the lefty recorded a 1.06 ERA and held the opposition to a .153 average over 52.2 innings pitched.

When asked about the lines drawn between the pitching staffs, Baker offered a nearly identical response as Bochy.

“I never thought about that,” Baker said. “But that’s a fair comparison.”

The comparison became significantly less fair on Saturday when Nationals general manager and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo acquired Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Melancon, who was a three-time All-Star with the Pirates, is the ideal replacement for Jonathan Papelbon — the Nationals’ deposed closer.

“He’s a known commodity. He’s a successful reliever and a guy that we’ve followed for years,” Rizzo said. “[He’s] battle-tested and one of the elite relievers in the game.”

The Pirates didn’t lose once when Melancon entered in a save situation dating back to April of 2015 — a stretch of 80 games.

Melancon also would have been an ideal replacement for Santiago Casilla.

While the clubs competed on the diamond through the weekend, the perception is that GM Bobby Evans and his counterpart Rizzo were also competing on the trade market.

“There’s not a lot of relievers at his level,” Rizzo said of his new closer. “It’s supply and demand. “The supply [of] those type of guys — there’s not a lot of. So, there was a lot of competition for players.”

The Nationals’ acquisition of Melancon with the Chicago Cubs’ move to nab Aroldis Chapman on Monday marks the second time in a week the Giants lost out to a fellow first-place club in the chase for a ninth-inning stopper.

Now Evans has until 1 p.m. on Monday to find that elusive bullpen arm in a market where the prices are high and two of the top options are already accounted for.Bruce BochyDusty Bakerkarl buscheckMLBSan Francisco GiantsWashington Nationals

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

From left, Natasha Dennerstein, Gar McVey-Russell, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Jan Steckel and Miah Jeffra appear in Perfectly Queer’s fifth anniversary reading on Jan. 20.<ins> (Courtesy photo)</ins>
Perfectly Queer reading series celebrates fifth anniversary

Online event features five writers, games, prizes

(Robert Greene/Tribune News Service)
As tensions grow over vaccinations and politics, California lawmakers face threats from public

Anti-vaccine speakers hint at gun violence during routine budget hearing at state Capitol

Dr. Martin Luther King in Sam Pollard’s ‘MLK/FBI’. (Courtesy of IFC Films/TNS)
The superb documentary ‘MLK/FBI’ clearly connects the past to our troubling present

Justin Chang Los Angeles Times Among the many archival materials excerpted in… Continue reading

Most Read