CHICAGO -- You never know what's going to turn a playoff race.
"You can't dope it out," the late Hall of Famer Johnny Evers said. "All you can do is to call it baseball and let it go at that."
In 1964, during a 10-game losing streak that cost them the pennant, the Phillies lost September games on steals of home by Willie Davis and Chico Ruiz. In 1969, a black cat walked in front of the Cubs' dugout at Shea Stadium.
Doug Rader fired up the unexpectedly strong 1983 White Sox by saying they were "winning ugly." Lou Whitaker was doing the splits at a party in September 1988 when he felt something pop in his right knee and was lost for the year. In 2007, Milton Bradley took out Padres teammate Mike Cameron in an outfield collision, and later in the same game was lost for the season when he was tackled while charging umpire Mike Winters.
Evers was right. We wouldn't have doped any of that out, not even with proprietorial software.
Now, thanks to a ruling by Joe Torre in their favor following Tuesday night's tarp incident, it's the Giants' turn to take advantage and step up to the plate. They've been steadily sliding back into the crowd of also-rans since the end of a 31-11 run on June 8 but now have a cause to rally around.
When the Giants left Wrigley Field at some point around 2 a.m. CT on Wednesday, they were fuming about a 2-0 loss that ended 4 1/2 innings early because of unplayable field conditions -- the result of the grounds crew's inability to properly cover the field during a summer squall.
At one point back in June, the Giants led the Dodgers by 9 1/2 games. But Tuesday's loss dropped them 4 1/2 games back in the National League West and into a virtual tie with the Braves for the second NL Wild Card spot. No wonder they were steaming.
The Cubs weren't exactly gloating, either. Team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer felt terrible that their infield would not dry, remaining a quagmire even after Hunter Wendelstedt's crew had allowed a delay of four hours and 34 minutes. Epstein and Hoyer supported San Francisco's arguments to have the umpires declare it a suspended game, to be resumed on Wednesday, but the crew did not feel the rules allowed for such flexibility.
But on Wednesday, after the Giants filed a formal protest, Major League Baseball concurred with their claim that the difficulties resulted from "mechanical" issues with the tarp. That meant the game could be suspended at the point it was interrupted, and that's where it will pick up on Thursday at 4:05 p.m. CT , before the regularly scheduled 7:05 p.m. game.
It's possible that the Cubs felt as good about the ruling as San Francisco.
"It's a good result," Hoyer said. "The last thing you want is a playoff team feeling bitter about the result here, something, obviously, that was caused by our organization. It's a good outcome. Hopefully, we'll win the game. We've got a 2-0 lead. But I definitely feel it was a just outcome."
Torre's ruling came down about an hour before the start of Wednesday's game, and the Giants celebrated with a four-run first inning off Edwin Jackson. It was the kind of inning they'd had often earlier in the season -- with singles by Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence starting the rally and Pablo Sandoval contributing a sacrifice fly -- and it was easy to think, "Here they come, the Giants who nobody will want to face in October."
Before the ruling, this had been a snakebitten team, one worried about a sore left hip that kept Buster Posey out of the lineup and even more so about the well-being of Brandon Belt, who is expected to be out at least two or three more weeks as he battles concussion issues. But suddenly San Francisco was given the rarest opportunity in baseball -- the chance to literally wipe a loss off its record.
Giants president Larry Baer spoke for the team, saying that he appreciates MLB's "careful review of our protest." He thanks Commissioner Bud Selig, Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred, Torre and the Cubs organization for their cooperation throughout the process.
Manager Bruce Bochy was impressed by how his players responded to the long, bizarre night at Wrigley Field.
"They know there's no point in dwelling on what happened last night," said Bochy, who has pretty much seen everything. "You have to come out and play. You have no choice in this game. You're going to have some ups and downs. We got in late last night, came out today, really not talking about it. Worried about tonight's game."
Now it's time to start worrying about Tuesday's game -- the one they will get a chance to finish on Thursday.
You've still got to take them one at a time, even if the order can sometimes get confusing.
The Giants have been given a rare chance. It's up to them to take advantage of it.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.