The Giants caught a huge break a few hours before their opener at Dodger Stadium in July when MLB decided to expand the postseason, giving a lifeline to teams who might finish, say a dozen games out of first place over 60 games and also well behind, say, the Padres in their division.
But two months later, they're not going to get any help if they want a return trip to Dodger Stadium. They're not going to back into this thing, taking advantage of the expanded field and a league that's top-heavy. After two lackluster performances in 24 hours, the Giants are going to need to win Sunday if they want any hope of a first-round matchup with the Dodgers.
A large part of that was locked into place Friday, when the Giants melted down in Game 2 of a doubleheader. They doubled down Saturday, with a costly baserunning mistake and another poorly timed rough outing from a reliever standing out in a 6-2 loss.
After the Giants cut it to 3-2 in the eighth, Tony Watson gave up a pair of homers in the top of the ninth to wipe out any shot at a comeback. But the Giants maybe shouldn't have been in that position anyway. Another huge mistake from an aggressive rookie cost them a chance to tie it up or take the lead in the fifth.
Mauricio Dubon singled with one out, and when Tyler Heineman was hit on the back foot, the bottom of the order had gotten things going in a 3-0 game. Mike Yastrzemski strolled to the plate with Alex Dickerson behind him, and a right-hander on the mound.
It was set up perfectly ... until Dubon took off for third.
Dubon said he was trying to fire up a team that looked flat early on. He was thrown out as he overslid the bag. When Yastrzemski struck out, the inning was over and the Giants trailed 3-0. In isolation, this isn't a gigantic deal. But this was the latest in a series of baserunning or throwing errors from Dubon, who is an exciting and extremely promising player, but has made some costly decisions.
Kapler didn't hold back after the game. He called it a "blunder that just cannot happen."
"I told him I needed to be honest with him, that is a really bad baseball play," Kapler said. "It's a bad baseball play because there's a tiny, tiny upside and there's a ton of downside. We have been winning games by having big innings and that had a chance to be a big inning."
Said Dubon: "It's a dumb baseball play. That can't happen."
Dubon has been beating the playoff drum louder than anyone this year, and he said the Giants are ready for what's ahead of them Sunday. They'll need a win, and they'll need help.
With a loss, the Giants are headed home. If the Giants win and the Brewers lose, they'll get the eighth seed and face the Dodgers in the first round. If they win and the Brewers also win against the Cardinals, the Giants will watch Monday as the Cardinals play a doubleheader against the Tigers, needing just one win to clinch a spot.
Much of this could have been avoided had the Giants won one of their past two games. Both were there for the taking, and that left Kapler more upset than he's been all year. He didn't hide it as he sat down for a Zoom press conference.
"There's real frustration," he said. "There's frustration in the dugout, there's frustration in the clubhouse, there's going to be frustration in the coaches' room and rightfully so. We know we had a chance to win today's baseball game and a chance to win last night's game and didn't get it done. That's super frustrating."