Oroville Mercury-Register

SF needs to find its magic, or season will be a big waste

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SAN FRANCISCO >> The Giants’ 2021 season has been magical.

But if they have any magic stored away — ready to be used at a later date — they need to bust it out starting Wednesday.

There’s no kind way to put this: This Giants team is entering September on empty. They’re running on fumes. Manager Gabe Kapler can say that his guys don’t get too high or too low — that’s true — but three straight losses to end August put the Giants at a season nadir before the biggest September in San Francisco in years.

The Giants’ lead in the National League West has disintegra­ted — what was not so long ago a five-game lead is now point-five. The Giants enter Wednesday tied in the win column with the Dodgers.

And while San Francisco has 30 games remaining and they’ll

all count the same, with the way this team is playing at the moment, it seems imperative for the Giants to end their short slide before it becomes season-defining.

The Giants have been the hunted for most of the season. They’ve grown used to the role. It looks good on them.

They do not want to switch roles and become the hunters in the final weeks of the campaign.

The old baseball saying is that momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. That’s great news for the Giants, who will trot out Kevin Gausman on Wednesday night.

But starting pitching has been a big issue for the Giants, as of late — save for the much-needed emergence of Logan Webb.

Meanwhile, in the last two games, they’ve gone up against two of the best starters in baseball in Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. The Giants have been dominated at the plate, as one would expect.

That’s a tough break.

It’s even tougher when the Giants have been forced to go with a bullpen game and Johnny Cueto coming off an illness.

Two games don’t define anything, but they have highlighte­d parts of larger issues for the Giants.

In the last seven days, the Giants have posted the third-worst OPS in baseball. Over the last two weeks, it’s fifthworst.

This team isn’t hitting. Luckily, when the Giants have hit, it has been clutch. That’s what has brought about wins since the Giants beat the A’s on Aug. 21 to prevent a three-game losing streak.

But the third-worst on-base percentage in baseball over the last two weeks is not something that can simply be glossed over. That’s the lifeblood of San Francisco’s offense and the struggles are not tied to Burnes, Woodruff, and the Brewers’ strong bullpen.

These struggles at the plate, all while Giants’ starting pitching — once stable and reliable — has become a serious question mark. Every starter but Webb has spent some time on the injured list in the last few weeks.

The series against the Brewers is important — they are another firstplace team after all — but it’s not nearly as important as the looming weekend series with the Dodgers.

The National League West lead could switch hands in that series — if the Giants haven’t already relinquish­ed that lead by the time the series starts.

Regardless, every game in that three-game set counts for a fullgame swing in the division standings, and since the Dodgers and Giants won’t play any more regular-season games after Sunday, the possible swings this weekend are huge.

Tell any Giants fan at the beginning of the season if they would want their team to be in first place in the National League West with the best record in baseball going into September. Even with the lead being a halfgame over the rival Dodgers, they would gladly sacrifice a finger or perhaps a first-born child for the privilege.

But ask that same Giants fan the same question a few weeks, a month ago, and I doubt you’d get such a response. It wouldn’t be 1993 if the Giants were to only earn one playoff game from this season, but it wouldn’t be far off from that unfair campaign.

No matter what happens to the Giants this season, this season has been wonderful.

But now that they’re in the middle of a pennant hunt, they might as well win the thing.

And if San Francisco can’t find a quick turnaround this week — if they can’t stem the negative tide rolling in — it’s hard to see them actually doing that.

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 ?? THEARON W. HENDERSON — GETTY IMAGES/TNS ?? Giants manager Gabe Kapler, middle, takes the ball from pitcher Johnny Cueto, left, during the fourth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Oracle Park on Tuesday in San Francisco.
THEARON W. HENDERSON — GETTY IMAGES/TNS Giants manager Gabe Kapler, middle, takes the ball from pitcher Johnny Cueto, left, during the fourth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Oracle Park on Tuesday in San Francisco.

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