For the first time this season, the San Francisco Giants have hit a legitimate impasse. Losing five of their last seven games including three consecutive games at home to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Giants are now tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the National League West. It’s San Francisco’s first time without sole possession of first place since May.
At some point, the Giants, who are still an incredible 85-49, were going to have a dry spell and the Dodgers have been playing as well as any team in the sport since the MLB trade deadline. With that said, the Giants now being the home team in the NL Wild Card Game brings a dangerous prospect to light, that being their superb regular season ending in a one-game playoff.
Despite their well-rounded play, the Giants have to avoid the Wild Card Game at all costs for reasons besides the obvious of the season coming down to a mere game.
San Francisco Giants’ starting rotation has minimal playoff experience
Starting pitching has been the Giants’ backbone this season. Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Logan Webb have been spectacular. In the case of the first two right-handers, they have turned their careers around in emphatic fashion. Pitching by their side, veterans Johnny Cueto and Alex Wood have been sturdy forces, rounding out one of the best starting rotations in MLB.
The problem? Gausman, DeSclafani and Webb have a combined zero postseason starts on their resume. Meanwhile, Cueto was recently placed on the injured list with an elbow injury while Wood battles COVID-19.
Postseason experience is a common talking point but one that genuinely matters and has played a role for Wild Card teams in recent memory. Sean Manaea of the Oakland Athletics (2019) and Luis Severino of the New York Yankees (2017) each put their teams in early holes that they had to work their way out of or were among the catalysts for the team losing in what were their first career playoff starts.
There’s no telling how an inexperienced big-game pitcher reacts to the pressure of a win-or-go-home affair, especially in the first inning. Such reaction can be evident by how well they locate their offerings.