Real or not? Giants still have playoff hopes, 20 strikeouts are boring

Jeff Samardzija struck out eight against the Cubs, but saw his record drop to 1-6. Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo

The San Francisco Giants have been a bad baseball team in 2017. We're not used to that. Since 2009, they've had just one losing season, and entering this season only four franchises had won more games the past eight seasons. After an awful 12-24 start, they had played a little better, winning three series in a row -- three of four against the Cincinnati Reds, two of three against the Los Angeles Dodgers, two of three against the St. Louis Cardinals.

This tough stretch of games then headed to Wrigley Field, and after winning the series opener, the Giants lost the final three, including a 5-1 loss Thursday as Jeff Samardzija served up three home runs and the offense scraped out just five hits even while striking out only one time. So now they're 20-29, and there's no bad luck in that record: They've been outscored by 69 runs. Only the Padres have a worse differential in the majors.

The offense has been the biggest culprit, ranking last in the majors in wOBA and 29th in runs. Samardzija continues to frustrate, posting terrific peripheral numbers -- he had eight strikeouts in seven innings on Thursday and has a season strikeout-to-walk ratio of 79-to-11 -- but hasn't been terrific at limiting runs. He's 1-6 with a 4.50 ERA. He has had a couple bad-luck no-decisions in there, but for whatever reason, he has pitched much worse with runners on base.

What makes the slow start even more problematic is the starts of the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rockies are 31-18, and the Diamondbacks, after a 4-0 win over the Brewers behind Robbie Ray, improved to 30-19. Those teams don't look like flukes at the moment, although the Rockies finally lost their first one-run game, losing 2-1 in 11 innings to the Philadelphia Phillies. But their starts have dramatically changed the playoff odds in the NL West.

Here's how FanGraphs saw the division entering the season:

Dodgers: 79 percent to win division, 95 percent to make playoffs

Giants: 19 percent to win division, 67 percent to make playoffs

Rockies: 1 percent to win division, 10 percent to make playoffs

Diamondbacks: 1 percent to win division, 9 percent to make playoffs

The Dodgers were heavy favorites to win the West, but the Giants were viewed as a strong playoff contender, with the Rockies and Diamondbacks extreme long shots to win the division.


Dodgers: 83 percent to win division, 98 percent to make playoffs

Giants: 0.6 percent to win division, 11 percent to make playoffs

Rockies: 9 percent to win division, 60 percent to make playoffs

Diamondbacks: 8 percent to win division, 55 percent to make playoffs

The computer projections still love the Dodgers. Surprisingly, the Giants' playoffs odds remain 1 in 10, reflecting the talent that has perhaps underachieved so far. Are they dead? Maybe not. Four teams that started 20-29 or worse in the wild-card era have made the playoffs: 2005 Houston Astros (started 18-31), 1995 New York Yankees, 2003 Miami Marlins and 2009 Rockies (all started 20-29).

What kind of run will it take for the Giants to get back in this? Well, if it will take 88 wins to make the playoffs, they'll have to play .602 the rest of the way (a 97-win pace). That Astros team actually fell 14 games under .500 at 21-35, but got back to .500 at 43-43 after a 22-8 stretch. So the Giants need that kind of run just to give themselves some hope again -- and then continue to play well.

Do you see this team going 22-8? With this offense? I don't.

The Boston Red Sox record 20 strikeouts and Chris Sale didn't even start

On a wet, yucky night at Fenway, the Texas Rangers looked like they were thinking of a nice beach somewhere in the Caribbean. Drew Pomeranz fanned 11 in six innings and four relievers fanned nine more in three innings -- including a four-strikeout ninth for Craig Kimbrel to close out the 4-2 victory.

However, it should have been 19 strikeouts. Kimbrel struck out Nomar Mazara swinging to start the ninth, but the pitch hit Mazara, bounced away, and he reached first. But the rulebook says Mazara should have been out, and MLB later said the replay room blew it on the review. At least it didn't end up affecting the final result.

For you smart kids, 20 strikeouts ties the record for a nine-inning game. Four of those games are the ones you might know: Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games, plus the ones from Kerry Wood and Max Scherzer. The other one was a tag-team effort by the Los Angeles Angels in September of 2012 against the Seattle Mariners. Zack Greinke fanned 13 in five innings in that one. But what does it say about all the strikeouts these days that a 20-strikeout game doesn't even seem all that particularly interesting? Sure, when a guy like Scherzer does it, that's still impressive, but this doesn't even feel like that big of a deal.

Giolito's gem In the minor leagues, Lucas Giolito spun a seven-inning no-hitter for Triple-A Charlotte in the first game of a doubleheader. Are seven-inning no-hitters worth celebrating? I guess so:

Giolito, Keith Law's No. 13 prospect before the season, entered the game with a 6.41 ERA, with 42 hits and 22 walks allowed in 39 1/3 innings. In other words, he has been terrible. In the no-no, he had three walks and just three strikeouts, so I'm not sure it's really a sign that he'll turn his season around.

Farmer of the day

Jayson Werth, man of the earth:

Play of the day

OK, so it happened 26 years ago! Best catch I think I've ever seen in person.

Quick thoughts ... The Red Sox announced David Price will return Monday. He has allowed 12 hits and nine runs in 5 2/3 innings in two rehab starts. ... Dustin Pedroia was pulled from the game with knee pain, although John Farrell said Pedroia wanted to stay in. ... Ryan Braun just returned a few days ago from one DL stint and is now headed back for another after injuring his calf. ... Andrew McCutchen sat for the second game in a row, mired in a 2-for-23 slump. ... Update from Ken Rosenthal on Chad Bettis' battle with testicular cancer. Bettis is still hoping to return this season. ... Justin Verlander continues to struggle as the Astros hit three home runs off him in a 7-6 victory. From Mark Simon: Verlander's curveball hasn't been the dominant pitch it was in 2016, when batters hit .165 against it. Carlos Correa homered off one on Thursday, and batters are hitting .270 against it. His walk rate of 4.3 batters per nine innings is eighth-worst among starters.