Giants

Giants

DENVER -- For all the fun the Giants are having right now, you can sense that they understand the reality of the situation. There's a reason projection systems like FanGraphs' playoff odds give the Giants a little more than a two percent chance of making the playoffs. 

When you've spent much of the first half sitting 10 games under .500, even having a winning season seems a difficult task. Compiling enough wins to clinch a Wild Card spot can seem impossible at times, but hey, the Giants are streaking, and that allows you to view things a different way. 

So what exactly would it take to actually get into the play-in game? The Giants have been there twice before and won twice before. In 2014 they won 88 games and in 2016 they won 87, both times tying the team that hosted the game (the Pirates and then the Mets). 

That's pretty much your baseline, and as you do the math, that's where you want to be looking. Since MLB went to a two-team system in 2012, the NL Wild Card game never has featured a team that won fewer than 87 games. 

In five of the seven years, the first Wild Card team has won at least 93 games, and the Nationals seem a good bet to be that team this year. Led by a deep rotation, they're 50-43 and have a 25-10 record since June 1. 

The second spot is much more wide open. The Rockies took it with 91 wins last year and in 2015 -- when the NL Central was absurd -- the Cubs won 97 games and still finished behind the Cardinals and Pirates in their own division. But it has taken just 87 wins to get that second spot twice, 88 wins twice, and 90 wins once. 

 

The Giants are 46-49 after Tuesday's 8-4 thriller and have won 11 of their last 13 games. They're five back of the Nationals and three back of the second spot, but the climb to 87 still is steep. They have to go 41-26 the rest of the way, a .611 winning percentage. The only team in the NL this season to play .611 ball is Los Angeles, a juggernaut that will easily win the division yet again. 

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It's a tough task. Then again, the Giants are in this position in large part because the National League is pretty mediocre this season, and the teams ahead of them -- the Nationals, Phillies, Brewers, Cardinals and Diamondbacks -- have had their own issues. You can't look at that group and see two teams that will run away from the pack. The Astros got into the AL Wild Card game with 86 wins in 2015 and the Twins did it with just 85 two years later, and perhaps this is the year when a lesser record gets it done in the NL. 

That would help, but history tells us a more likely outcome. If you're looking for a target, make it 87 wins. That's still a lofty goal, but with the way the Giants are playing right now, anything seems possible.