Ratto: Giants now playing to finish above .500

Ratto: Giants now playing to finish above .500
September 10, 2011, 6:14 am
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Sept. 9, 2011

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Deny it all you want, but the Giants really do have something to play for these final 17 games.

Its called .500.

After tonight's colossally predictable 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Clayton Kershaws, in which the Giants assembled five entire baserunners, two in the last eight innings, and scoffed derisively at one of Tim Lincecums best starts, they got a clearer view of what they can still potentially defend. And it requires a rear-view mirror.

Never mind Arizona. Thats done, and done dead. The Diamondbacks squeezed a late run against San Diego to win, 3-2, and now lead the NL West by 8 games.

In fact, its bordering on a coin flip whether they can hold off the Dodgers for second. Theyre probably still safe from Colorado, although the Rockies are closer to them than they are to the Diamondbacks.

But lets get down to cases here. The Giants are now 14-25 since July 28, when Lincecum choke-slammed the Phillies in Pennsylvania to put them 17 games over .500, and in the ensuing 39 games are averaging a preposterous 2.74 runs per game.

RECAP: Giants' offense anemic, fall to Dodgers 2-1

Lets focus, though, on the games left. The Giants, rolling along at their .359 clip, can still end up with 81 wins by going 6-12, which is .333. They can play .333 baseball averaging 2.7 runs a game weve seen them do it.

In fact, weve seen all but 30-some-odd teams in the history of the game do it. Two-point-seven is obnoxiously low, the domain of teams like the New Haven Elm Citys, the Elizabeth Resolutes and the Fort Wayne Kekiongas. All quarks and mesons from the late 19th century.

So the Giants need a goal at this point, even after watching how they died Friday night. Even after suspecting that after the first inning, when Justin Christian reached on Dee Gordons throwing error, stole second and scored on Pablo Sandovals base hit, they would fail to press their advantage against the Lord Kershaw.

And then, having watched Lincecum grind through nervous second and fourth innings without damage only to be undone by a two-out swinging bunt by Matt Kemp that hugged the third-base line, a stolen base and a Juan Rivera single, that new goal became all the more important.

And yes, its a lousy goal after what they accomplished a year ago, and how close to the lead they were that Sunday in late July.

But as a practical matter, it is all thats left them, because Friday night was not an unusual occurrence at all. They have scored two or fewer runs in 27 of their last 52 games going back to the All-Star Break, and they havent faced Clayton Kershaw 27 times.

Maybe the desire to hold off the Dodgers burns in the players enough to get them that elusive third run more often in the final three weeks. But we dont think desire has been the issue. Bad at-bats in Costco-sized palettes have been the problem, and we see no evidence that a steady diet of youth will change that. IN other words, this wont be solved by the lineup card, if it can be solved at all.

This is a simple matter of lowering ones expectations to a level considered unfathomable in April, laughable in June, and embarrassing in August. This is about not finishing with 82 losses, and if that seems like too modest a goal in your eyes, well, you havent been watching.

And all credit and glory to you for your judgment.

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