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Celebration Number One

Baseball being a game of statistics, there are bound to be some categories in which any team can claim superiority. The Giants aren't known as a strong hitting team, but they are third in the National League in batting average. They're last in home runs (by a wide margin), but first in triples (by a wide margin). As for pitching, they're the only team in the league with five pitchers who have at least ten wins. They've been the best fielding team in baseball since the all-star break.

All season, they have won the games they should win, and the games they needed to win. They went 28-6 against the three worst teams in the league. Down the stretch, they have won ten of their last eleven games, and their last six in a row. They've also overcome adversity, having lost their closer, Brian Wilson, in April after only one save, and never getting a single game out of their all-star second baseman, Freddy Sanchez.

For the first half of the season, in fact, they didn't have a set lineup. Then in July, just before the trade deadline, they made two deals that gave them a second baseman, Marco Scutaro, and a right fielder, Hunter Pence. The shortstop job is being handled by a potential gold glove winner, Brandon Crawford. And their catcher, Buster Posey, who missed most of the 2011 season, is in the running for the batting title and is a legitimate MVP candidate.

With their 8-4 win over the Padres tonight, the Giants are also eleven games ahead of the Dodgers, with ten games to play. What that means is that they can't be caught and will finish the season in first place in the NL West division. Tonight's game was the clincher that sends them to the postseason and probably a first-round series against the Reds, who clinched their division earlier today with a 6-0 pasting of the hapless Dodgers.

But there are ten games to go in the regular season before another meaningful game will be played, and I'm wondering how you play those games. There's no way you can play with the same intensity you did when you were chasing the title. The crowd at AT&T Park tonight was as loud and lively as it could possibly be, but there's bound to be a letdown. What they need to do is make sure that when the division series against the Reds starts next month, they are ready.

Two years ago the Giants clinched both the division and a playoff spot on the last day of the season, also with a win over the Padres. They were forced to play hard all the way to the end of the season, and the momentum carried them to the World Series championship. I can only hope that they can dig deep and play the way they did then. At least their probable opponents have those same ten games to wind up or wind down. I know I'll be keeping track of the Reds more closely between now and the start of the playoffs.


After the win tonight, the team celebrated with their fans, taking a victory lap around the ballpark with high fives for all. Several players spoke to the crowd, who stayed for a long time after the game. This is the high point of the season so far, but they can't afford to ease up. Some of these players were on the team that went all the way in 2010, and they will have to be as hungry as the new guys for another ring.

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