Giants push through slow 2nd half, into postseason

Giants push through slow 2nd half, into postseason

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in San Francisco, the last day of the regular season, the Giants completed a sweep of the Dodgers to earn the second National League Wild Card berth.

During the game, the Giants, Vin Scully's favorite childhood team, honored the final broadcast of his amazing 67-year career. There's no doubt that baseball will not see another career like Scully's.

This season, the Giants narrowly made the playoffs after having the best record at the All-Star break. During this incredible run by the Giants, in which they have won World Series championships in even years starting with 2010, they were a Wild Card team once before.

The collapse by the Giants was epic. Although they spent the previous offseason upgrading their starting rotation, it didn't perform to expectations. They hoped Matt Cain would be healthy in the second half, but back problems plagued him. Jake Peavy was on the disabled list with back problems, too, and didn't pitch well. Even Madison Bumgarner struggled after the All-Star break. Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto were the most consistent starters for the Giants after the All-Star break. Midseason acquisition Matt Moore also struggled at times.

The Giants don't have a good bullpen, a necessary element for success in the postseason. Their 30 blown saves led the league this season. Finding an effective closer has been difficult for manager Bruce Bochy. During the series against the Dodgers, Bochy used Sergio Romo, who was the Giants' closer in their 2012 and '14 World Series runs, as the team's closer, and the Giants probably will continue to use Romo as their closer this month.

To cope with their pitching problems, the Giants have one of the best defenses in the NL. Brandon Crawford has become a fantastic shortstop while also becoming an outstanding hitter. His above-average range and strong arm prevent many hits. Buster Posey has been the Giants' primary catcher since his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2010. He knows the pitching staff well, so he can help them navigate through rough patches during the game. His defense has improved since his rookie season, and not many opposing runners attempt to steal on him.

Even though the Giants played more than half their games in pitching-friendly stadiums -- their home venue of AT&T Park, as well those of their NL West rivals, Dodger Stadium and Petco Park -- before the All-Star break, they scored the fourth most runs in the NL. They had injuries to key players -- Hunter Pence with a torn hamstring and Angel Pagan with a pulled hamstring -- in the first half, but the reserves produced offensively.

In the second half, the Giants' offense was anemic. They scored the third fewest runs in the NL after the All-Star break. They lacked power, hitting the second fewest home runs after the break. Something sapped the power from Posey, who hit only three home runs after the break. On Sunday, it was obvious that Bochy felt the pressure of having poor offensive production. He elected to squeeze in a run with Moore, a poor hitting pitcher. It was only the second inning, and his team had a two-run lead.

Most teams view earning the Wild Card as a distinct disadvantage. Having to play a one-game playoff to get into the NLDS is nerve-wracking. Since the Giants have known they didn't win the division for a week, Bochy could align his starting rotation to have Bumgarner to start against the Mets on Wednesday night in New York.

Sarah K. Spencer is a reporter for based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.