SAN FRANCISCO -- In the end, it came down to San Francisco and San Diego. Which was fitting, because that's how it was for most of the season. As May dawned, those two were at the top of the National League West standings ...
This was a bit surprising, if only because I had the Padres finishing fifth and the Giants fourth. Still, it was early and maybe they would eventually make me look smart (hint: they didn't).
The Giants were in third place, with the second-place Dodgers two behind the Padres.
Very nearly the low point for the Giants, as they trailed not only the first-place Padres but also the Dodgers (-3) and the Rockies (-5). It wasn't that the Giants were obviously the fourth-best team in the division; their run differential was still second best in the division. But it's just not easy to pass three teams even when you're clearly better than them. Which the Giants were not.
July was the month that called the West's tune. The Giants went 20-8 to almost catch the Padres, who still played pretty well. But the Rockies went just 13-13 and the Dodgers were worse (11-15). That dropped them both seven games behind the Padres. Meanwhile, the Giants were still right there.
Rockies seven games out, Dodgers nine games out. The Rockies would make some noise in September, but not nearly enough. The Dodgers were irrelevant. The Giants did lose some ground, but making up four games in one month (and three days) is far from impossible. As we've just seen.
What else happened? Essentially, the Giants stopped allowing runs and the Padres didn't. From September 1 through the last day of the season, the Giants scored 106 runs and allowed 60, while the Padres allowed 119 runs and scored 91. The Giants won 19 games and the Padres won 14 games.
It was a close-run thing, and it could have gone either way. The Padres did blow a big lead -- for a moment in late August, they led the Giants by 6.5 games -- but their big lead was always something of a mirage, because they really weren't that good. If the season went long enough, they were going to lose it eventually.
And for the Padres, the season lasted just a few days too long.