For the first time since 2005, the San Francisco Giants have a chance to be in the playoff race down to the final week of the season.
Players like Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz, Sergio Romo, and Ryan Sadowski have seemingly come out of nowhere to be major contributors to the NL Wild Card leading San Francisco Giants.
Combine the surprising young studs with the savvy 1-2 punch of aces Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, the Giants have a core group that may end up taking the team to the playoffs.
If San Francisco were to make the post-season, whether as the Wild Card or as the NL West champion, it would be their first playoff appearance since 2003.
A feat that would be more than enough for die-hard Giants fans who are content with just having a competitive team again after sitting through five consecutive losing seasons.
However, with the best pitching staff in baseball, the Giants could very easily make a deep playoff run; that is if they get there.
But if the orange and black find themselves playing October baseball, one thing is certain: Nobody, and I mean NOBODY is going to want to face the Giants because of their ridiculously talented pitching staff led by potential Game 1 and Game 2 starters, Lincecum and Cain.
But games like the series finale against the mediocre Florida Marlins keep the Giants and their fans from getting over excited about their playoff chances.
Aaron Rowand made one of the best plays of the year in center field, running down a fly ball in left center field while taking on the wall. However, at the plate Rowand went 0-4 with a strikeout. The Giants center-fielder is now 0-14 in his past four games with four strikeouts.
Giants fans know that Rowand is a "Gamer" and his presence on the club is vital to the team's success, but he is clearly not the type of player the Giants need at the leadoff spot. Rowand needs to be hitting 6th-7th in this lineup.
But not only is it frustrating the way Giants manager Bruce Bochy still thinks Rowand is on that 17-game hitting streak (which started when Rowand first moved to leadoff), but it is also frustrating that Bengie Molina was absent from the lineup on Wednesday.
However, with Molina on the bench it is clear what Bochy is trying to do. Bochy knows it is a day game after a night game, which is often hard for catchers to start back-to-back with all the wear and tear on their bodies.
Not only that, but Bochy is also thinking that Wednesday's starter Ryan Sadowski is more comfortable with backup catcher Eli Whiteside who has caught a lot of Sadowski's games in the minor leagues.
But there are significant problems with giving Molina the day off. Wednesday's game was the third start of Sadowski's career and it was the third time he was caught by Eli Whiteside.
Knowing that, is it just assumed that every fifth game the Giants' "everyday" cleanup hitter is going to have a day off?
Look, the move to have Whiteside start Wednesday's game is a completely justifiable decision by the Giants' manager.
However, what is going to happen late in the season when the Giants are playing a game with huge playoff implications? If it is Sadowski's turn in the rotation will Whiteside still start, leaving the Giants without their cleanup hitter?
One would hope not, but if Molina does get put in the lineup in that hypothetical situation, will he have caught Sadowski in a game prior? If not, are Molina and Sadowski going to be in sync with one another?
It is clearly apparent that the Giants cannot afford to have "Big Money's" bat out of the lineup every fifth day.
Just look at the series finale with the Marlins. Without Molina in the lineup the Giants were shutout 7-0 and Eli Whiteside made a questionable catch attempt at a play at the plate.
During the fifth inning, Nate Schierholtz made a nice running catch and attempted to throw out Marlins pitcher Chris Volstad at the plate. Schierholtz's throw was right on the money and clearly beat Volstad to the plate. In all fairness, the throw landed in the dirt in front of the plate and was a wicked short-hop.
However, Whiteside wasn't blocking the plate, instead he backed up on the short-hop to try and block it like he would a pitch in the dirt. Even if he had hung onto the ball cleanly, there is no way he would have gotten the out call because he was nearly behind the plate while wrestling it down.
If the more experienced Molina were catching, he would have been on the third-base side of the plate, blocking the runner, and would have attempted to backhand the short-hop and swipe tag the runner.
Maybe Volstad still scores with Molina at catcher, but it would have been a lot closer than it was with Whiteside.
With plays like that, the 7-0 final score in Wednesday's finale is a score that may end up happening more frequently if the Giants continue their current befuddling roster moves.
Going into the ninth, the game was still in reach, but Merkin Valdez allowed a three-run bomb to Dan Uggla which sealed the victory for the Marlins.
It was the second straight outing in which Valdez allowed three earned runs. It makes Giants fans wonder why Brandon Medders isn't out to pitch the ninth in that situation.
Valdez now has a 5.00 era on the season as a reliever! It is extremely frustrating why Bochy puts him back out there after his last outing was so incredibly awful.
To be fair, Wednesday's loss is just one game during a 162 game season and the Giants have won back-to-back series on this home-stand.
However, the complete game shutout by Chris Volstad is his first career complete game and first career shutout.
And over the last few seasons, San Francisco fans have come accustomed to the Giants being shutdown by relatively unknown pitchers.
It is games like Wednesday afternoon that can make even the most optimistic Giants fans shake their heads and wonder whether the Giants are for real.
I for one wrote a piece before the season asking the question if the Giants were indeed the favorites to win the NL West.
There are few people out there who had the same amount of optimism, but performances like the one the Giants put up against the Marlins make us fans want to pull our teeth out.
If the Giants are serious about being in contention come September, they can ill afford games like Wednesday's that remind fans more of the 2007-2008 teams than the new and exciting 2009 version.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!