Cockroaches are notoriously hard to kill. Their tough, rugged exteriors combined with an unmatched ability to squeeze through tight spaces has made them the one creature on earth synonymous with survival. If a nuclear bomb hits, chances are there will still be cockroaches running around after the fallout.
The San Francisco Giants have been compared to cockroaches before. But this year, it seems especially apt. The best team in baseball in the first half, the Giants were a total disaster after the All-Star break and looked nothing like a playoff team. In fact, they played exactly like a team on a 103-loss pace. The offense had gone cold, the bullpen was in shambles, and it was hard to imagine them contending for anything other than a high draft pick.
But something happened during the last week of the season: the Giants remembered it was an even year, won eight of their last 12 games and made it in as the second Wild Card. The year didn’t have anything to do with it – probably. I mean, maybe it did. With the Giants, who knows at this point? There’s no explanation that seems plausible at times. In all of their World Series years, they’ve faced adversity that has looked insurmountable:
** In 2010, they didn’t clinch a playoff spot until the last day of the season, then had to face down the consensus best team in baseball (Philadelphia) in the NLCS.
** In 2012, they were down 2-0 to the Reds and needed to win out on the road to advance, followed by going down 3-1 to the Cardinals and pinning their hopes on Barry Zito to keep their season alive.
** In 2014, they limped into the playoffs, had to go on the road to play the Wild Card game, then had to play the team with the best record in the National League (Washington) in the first round, then had to play game 7 of the World Series on the road.
This year, the Giants again had to wait until the last day of the season to clinch a playoff spot, had to go on the road to win the Wild Card game, and now have the 103-win Cubs and their quest to end 108 years of suffering standing in the way. It’s a tall order, but the Giants seem to be accustomed to long odds in October.
And the Giants have reasons to like their chances against the powerhouse Cubs. The big offseason additions of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija have paid off, giving San Francisco their deepest rotation since the 2010 team. The lineup is getting healthy and guys like Denard Span and Buster Posey are breaking out of their slumps. Even the bullpen has found some stability, thanks to the reemergence of Sergio Romo as the closer.
But will any of that be enough to beat the Cubs? On paper, the odds aren’t in the Giants’ favor. But the Giants have been big underdogs on paper plenty of times before and still found a way to win. There’s a certain intangible they have when it comes to October baseball that only comes with experience, and virtually everybody on their roster has been through the grind of the playoffs before. It can’t be discounted, and that’s why the Giants have a fighting chance this year.
The Cubs are a nuclear bomb. Can the Giants find it in themselves to be cockroaches one more time?
Don’t bet against them.