However, when you get close to the end, the second team could win the rest of their games and still not catch up. When that happens, then you assume they win the rest and see how many games the leading team wins to end up with more wins. The Giants and 'Dres are in this situation now, the Giants can win 4 of their last 5 games and they win the NL West, no matter what San Diego does, with the 'Dres being the only one left in the race, as the D-Rox was eliminated yesterday with their loss (which is great, because now they know that they gave their best, winning all those games, and it was not enough that Tulo had his historic run of homeruns; their confidence would have been immense in the future had they pulled it off again).
As I noted before, the Giants could win the NL West before the SD series by sweeping the D-backs and the Cubs sweeping the 'Dres. With the momentum of both teams - SF doing well, SD collapsing against the Cubs - that could happen, but the odds do not favor that. The SD series should decide the NL West.
But the Giants probably only need to win one game in the series to clinch. Because they are playing the 'Dres in the last series, if both teams go 1-1 in the two remaining games in their respective series against the D-backs and the Cubs (or Giants win two or 'Dres lose two but both are not sweeps), the Giants only need to win one game of the SD series to clinch the NL West title, as every Giants win in that series is also a 'Dres loss, meaning the Giants erase 2 off their magic number when they win. Or they could just win the SD series and that would clinch it too, even if they lost the two to AZ.
With the end of the season so close, the Giants felt that they should swap Lincecum and Bumgarner's starts so that Lincecum starts today and Bumgarner tomorrow. I will recap what I've seen that this means. First of all, it positions Lincecum to pitch on regular rest now and be ready to start any tie-breaking games that are needed on Monday on regular rest as well, instead of short rest. Second, it gives Bumgarner another day of rest, which is key because now he gets 2 extra days, which gives his body more rest than usual and he's blown through his previous high in innings pitched. It is probably his last start of the season, most teams go with a 4 man (or less) rotation in the playoffs, so he'll probably be our long-man out of the bullpen in the playoffs and Bochy will probably give a short rope to Zito and Sanchez if they start off badly.
Third, it increases the odds of winning today, and if Lincecum can pull that off, the magic number is reduced by one more. Fourth, it gives Lincecum extra rest should the Giants make the regular playoffs with no tie-breaking games. Fifth, if the Giants need Lincecum on Sunday, he could pitch on short rest that day as well. This gives the Giants a lot of options.
Sanchez's Growth And Posey Influence
Wanted to note something about Jonathan Sanchez's start yesterday. That is typical of Sanchez, being amped up and unable to control his pitches well but still the other team is missing his pitches so he still strikes out a lot while also walking a lot. He has "swing and miss" stuff that just needed to be harnessed, which would put him in Cy Young type situations if he ever could do that.
Posey has been doing that with Sanchez this second half of the season. Before, when Sanchez was like this, he would eventually give up a lot of hits to drive in those walks and he would have a disaster start. As Bochy noted, "a couple of years ago he probably would have panicked." Posey has been able to figure out how to utilize what is working so that Sanchez can last 5-6 innings without giving up a lot of runs, which keeps the team close enough that they can come back and tie up the game or take the lead. That allowed Sanchez to get ahold of his emotions and finally find that even keel, which he did last night, retiring 12 of 14 at one point.
Once Sanchez can do that regularly, at the start of the game, he will join Lincecum and Cain atop the rotation (and dare say I now, Bumgarner is probably ready to do that as well, but needs to prove it over a full season now) as co-aces. That Posey is able to coax that out of him even when he's amped up is great news for the Giants chances in the playoffs this year if they get in.
Another accomplishment that deserves noting is that he reached 200 strikeouts, the first Giants lefty to do it since the infamous Ray Sadecki in 1968. By doing so, he and Lincecum also joined Phillies Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels as the only duos in the majors to reach 200 K's.
Panda's Mojo Could be Returning
Also wanted to note Pablo Sandoval's 2 for 3 day, with a double and a walk, and he scored the winning run. He said in an interview that Baggarly captured in his blog that he had reviewed video with Bam Bam and made a tweak to a more open stance that worked for him last season that he will use from both sides of the plate. He also claims to be more patient and that he's seeing the ball really well. Torres was also helping him by being positive every day, to battle and win, forget about before, and never give up.
Bochy's comments are in line with what I was saying previously:
“Yeah, you could see Pablo relaxing a little more,” Bochy said. “He came off the bench with a couple hits and he slowed things down. I’m happy for Pablo. We need him. He can flat-out hit. It’d be so important if Pablo can stay within himself and contribute to this offense.
“Sometimes it’s good for a player to back off and get a mental break and realize you’ve been pressing. Hopefully that’s what you get with Pablo.”As I was noting, if Pablo could relax and be himself, he would straighten out. A mental break of a number of games (not a benching IMO) sometimes does that and it appears to have worked. A functioning Panda is of immeasurable worth to the offense in the playoffs. Getting his type of production out of the bottom of the lineup should create a congo-line of scoring for us.