SAN DIEGO -- Everything can't line up just right for the San Francisco Giants, can it? Life's never that easy, right?There are 29 other teams in Major League Baseball, after all, and most of them still think there's a way for them to win the World Series. So even though
SAN DIEGO -- Everything can't line up just right for the San Francisco Giants, can it? Life's never that easy, right?
There are 29 other teams in Major League Baseball, after all, and most of them still think there's a way for them to win the World Series. So even though the American League won the All-Star Game, 4-2, and ensured that the Giants (or any National League team) won't have home-field advantage in the World Series, these are the facts:
1. It's an even-numbered year.
2. The Giants are the winningest team in baseball, with a 40-15 record since May 10.
3. Hall of Famer-in-waiting Bruce Bochy is still the guy calling the shots.
So go ahead, everybody, take your best shot.
While the NL is loaded with strong teams, the Giants are in an almost perfect formation to repeat their championship runs from 2010, '12 and '14. It could have been the perfect formation, but one of their own slipped up in the All-Star Game.
Kris Bryant's laser-beam home run in the top of the first inning had given the NL the early lead, but Johnny Cueto, the San Francisco newcomer with the $130 million contract, got ambushed by a pair of Royals in the second inning.
So much for home-field advantage in the Fall Classic.
But, hey, this isn't a really horrible sign for the Giants, though it should be noted that the team with home-field advantage has won nine of 13 World Series played since home-field advantage was determined by the All-Star Game.
"It'd be nice to have home field in the World Series, but [all three] times we've won the World Series, we've [clinched] on the road,'' San Francisco first baseman Brandon Belt said. "You do what you can to get the home field, but if not, you just go with it.''
The Giants won Game 7 at Kauffman Stadium in 2014, which ought to provide a little positive reinforcement if they outlast the Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers and everyone else to win their fourth pennant in seven seasons. Cubs manager Joe Maddon says home-field advantage is more for the fans than the teams, and he's right.
As has been the case in recent All-Star Games, runs were scarce on Tuesday night at Petco Park. The NL staged multiple threats, but with Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana and Will Harris delivering huge outs, there was no way back from the 3-1 hole that Terry Collins' team was in after home runs by Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez off Cueto.
Not that Cueto's night was a complete loss. He sat down Jose Altuve, Manny Machado and David Ortiz in a scoreless first inning, but he ended up hanging a pair of pitches to Hosmer and Perez, who were Cueto's teammates last year, and they didn't miss.
"When you make mistakes in the big leagues, and you leave pitches up like I did, then you pay the price,'' Cueto said. "That's what happened. I left two pitches up and I paid the price.''
Cueto is 13-1 with a 2.47 ERA. His 2.68 ERA since 2011 is second best in the NL, behind only Clayton Kershaw among pitchers who have thrown 500 innings. Cueto frequently looks vulnerable with his rope-a-dope pitching style, but he delivers results more often than not.
"He tried to do his normal thing and shake it up a little bit,'' said Belt. "The thing is, whenever you're facing guys like we were facing today, you make one mistake and they'll make you pay for it. Obviously it wasn't his best outing of the year, but I'm sure he enjoyed playing the All-Star Game just like we all did.''
Cueto's NL teammates had plenty of chances to strike back but got only a fourth-inning single from Marcell Ozuna in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position. Cueto was on the hook and there was no getting off it. With Cueto working between Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija, the Giants figure to be a tough out in October. That's true whether their series start in the China Basin or along the Great Wall of China.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.