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Kurtenbach: The SF Giants’ new goal — tread water until the All-Star break

Kurtenbach: The SF Giants’ new goal — tread water until the All-Star break

The Giants are not where they want to be.

Two games under .500 isn’t anyone in San Francisco’s idea of a good record — not after the team raised expectations this offseason by spending big money.

But all that said, the Giants are right where they need to be.

Are the circumstances ideal? Hardly. Everything about this team feels precarious.

But the situation is manageable.

Yes, despite, well, everything, everything this team wanted to achieve for this season — namely, a berth in the postseason — is still on the table.

You can thank Heliot Ramos for that. You can thank MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, too. And while you’re at it, send a thank you to the boys in the Giants’ bullpen as well.

A month ago, I told you that the Giants’ forced youth movement was exactly what the team needed. It provided a spark.

Ultimately, this roster wasn’t fully combustible — whatever flames came from that spark faded after a couple of weeks.

For the next month, the Giants need to trade fire for water.

They just need to tread it.

Coming off a 3-3 road trip that felt nothing like a .500 affair, and boasting a sub-.500 record overall with a negative run differential, the Giants are still, somehow, tied for a Wild Card spot.

That’s nothing to boast about — there are eight teams within 1.5 games of a Wild Card spot in the National League at the 40 percent mark of the season. Manfred’s expansion of the postseason (to make more money, of course) has created more competition, sure, but it has also rewarded mediocrity. There’s a whole lot of meh happening in baseball right now, and the Giants might be the league leaders in the category.

As such, San Francisco doesn’t need to make a run over the next month, leading up to the All-Star Game at the new Costco in Arlington (also known as Globe Life Field) — no, the Giants merely have to survive and advance.

Get to the other side of the All-Star Game within a good series of a Wild Card spot, and the Giants will be primed to make a run in the so-called “second half.”

That’s when this team’s barebones rotation can expect to have two Cy Young winners (Blake Snell and Robbie Ray) and two stalwarts (Logan Webb and Alex Cobb) in the rotation.

Merely having four starters — much less starters of that quality — would be a win for San Francisco. They’ve been getting by with three for a few weeks now, and two of those pitchers (Jordan Hicks, Kyle Harrison) have reached a point of diminishing returns.

It’s led to the Giants’ bullpen throwing the most innings in baseball since May 1, but it boasts a respectable 3.62 ERA and an excellent 10 strikeouts per nine innings rate.

I have heard Giants fans malign this bullpen as of late. Familiarity breeds contempt. But without this ‘pen, the Giants would be in a deep hole. This team’s expected win-loss record is two games worse than its actual output.

Or, to put it in non-baseball-dork terms: the Giants should be the Mets.

Thank goodness that’s not the case.

And the bullpen and Ramos are the reasons the Giants have not been infected with Metropolitanism.

And both will have to keep pushing for another month, just to get this team over the hump.

That might work for Ramos. The more he plays, the better he’s been: he has a .938 OPS since being called up, but a 1.068 OPS over the last 14 games, and a downright shocking 1.468 OPS over his last seven contests played.

Ramos is playing so well that he could well be the Giants’ All-Star Game representative, despite playing less than half the season at the Major League Level.

But beyond Ramos who is hitting well for the Giants?

I’ll give you Wilmer Flores (3 homers in the last week with a knack for coming to the plate with the bases loaded), and perhaps even Mike Yastrzemski.

But this offense has been something close to a one-man show. That two-week barrage of runs to end May is over — the Giants are 19th in runs scored since the calendar flipped to June and Ramos has driven in 10 of the 34.

Of course, the Giants will take runs and innings any way they can get them these days — one man, nine men, or even James Outman (he checks both boxes for the Giants — from the Bay, played for the Dodgers). I suggested that this team is about grit and grind — that’s the nice way of saying “scratch and claw.”

However the Giants do stay alive over this next month, ahead of the starting pitching cavalry — run prevention, run-scoring, or devil magic — this team has its work cut out for it.

They are somehow, someway, still in a position to make something of this season. There’s a second-half scenario — drastically improved starting pitching, perhaps a slugger via trade — where this team looks downright formidable.

But that can only come to pass if the Giants can keep their heads above water for the next 31 games, of which they’ll play two teams with worse records (as of Monday) — the first two teams on the schedule, Houston and the Angels.

We’re about to see just how good manager Bob Melvin is. He’s going to have to manage his butt off to steal a few wins in the coming weeks.

We’re going to find out if Ramos is a real-deal cornerstone player or another short-term fad.

And we’re going to find out just how much character this Giants team has.

If they can keep their heads above water for the next month — if they can find a route to 15 wins between now and the All-Star Game — they’ll give us every reason to believe something better is on the horizon.


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