Gabe Kapler has, almost without fail, maintained an air of positivity this season. But even he had to admit that Thursday's loss stung quite a bit.
"It was a really, really difficult loss," he said. "We felt we had several opportunities to win it. We had some really good pitching from our bullpen and just didn't get the job done today."
The Giants failed to deliver an early knockout blow, and as a result they're in a position where they need to have a good weekend against a team that has been the second-best squad in the NL much of this season.
The San Diego Padres are limping into Oracle Park, having lost five of seven and ace Mike Clevinger to an arm injury. But they'll have Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack on the mound for Friday's doubleheader, with the Giants countering with Tyler Anderson and ... maybe Jeff Samardzija? Or a bullpen game?
The Giants don't hold the tiebreaker (in-division record) against most teams remaining in the race, so they'll need to straight-up win their way into October. Here's a look at what the others need to do ...
St. Louis Cardinals-Milwaukee Brewers: St. Louis won the first game of a five-game series, further inching toward the second automatic berth in the NL Central. The teams play two more today, and if you're a Giants fan, you want the Cardinals to sweep, eliminating one team that's currently in the way. The Cardinals (28-26 plus the tiebreaker) would be hard for the Giants to catch in any head-to-head situation anyway. The Brewers enter the day at 27-29.
Cincinnati Reds (29-28): They face the Minnesota Twins, and hard-throwing right-hander Jose Berrios in the first game of their season-ending series. At this point, one win pretty much gets them in, as they hold the tiebreaker over the Giants after going 21-19 against NL Central opponents.
Philadelphia Phillies (28-29): As if there wasn't enough drama this weekend, Kapler's biggest competition for the final postseason playoff spot will end up being the team that fired him 11 months ago. The Phillies hold the tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. They travel to Tampa Bay for their final three, a tough task, but they do have Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola going over the weekend. Tonight, it's Vince Velasquez vs. Charlie Morton, with the Rays needing just one win to wrap up the top seed in the American League.