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Under normal circumstances, a San Francisco Giants club that’s currently clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the National League postseason standings would control its own destiny.

It’s been a long time since baseball, or life, has played out under normal circumstances.

After a coronavirus scare required immediate postponements of games against the Padres on Friday and Saturday in San Diego, the Giants flew to Seattle and will return to San Francisco without playing a game at T-Mobile Park.

Smoky conditions in the Pacific Northwest led to “very unhealthy” Air Quality Index readings that led to the postponement of Tuesday’s series opener and compelled MLB to relocate the two-game set between the Giants and Mariners to Oracle Park.

The Air Quality Index, which measures air pollution levels on a scale from 0-500, hovered between 230 and 260 in Seattle Tuesday before the clubs announced they would travel to San Francisco where the Mariners will be the “home” team for games on Wednesday and Thursday.

After flying from Seattle, the clubs will play a series at a ballpark where there have also been genuine concerns about postponing games due to poor air conditions in recent weeks as wildfires continue to rage in California, Oregon and Washington.

The sudden and now seemingly endless interruptions to the season have created chaos, but Giants manager Gabe Kapler believes his club is equipped to adapt. Related Articles

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“I do know that our players and our staff are prepared,” Kapler said Tuesday. “This is not catching us off guard or putting us in any uncomfortable positions. We want the season to go smoothly, we want to be able to play every game, but we knew this season would provide additional challenges so we prepared for that possibility.”

At times it can feel as if MLB’s attempt to have teams complete a 60-game season is a nationwide game of Whac-A-Mole, but it is not unlike every other business currently dealing with the challenges of operating in the midst of a pandemic. The Giants are only the latest team to have a significant portion of its schedule shredded and reprinted, but barring any additional surprises, they’ll now sleep in their own beds for the remainder of the regular season.

At 23-24, the Giants are 13 games away from completing the most unique year in franchise history. They hold a 1.0-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wildcard standings, but must also fend off the Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies and New York Mets who all have realistic chances of securing a playoff berth.

A well-rested club will immediately be put to the test as Tuesday suddenly became the Giants’ final off day of the regular season. With 13 games in 12 days, highlights of the schedule include three games against a first-place Oakland A’s team and four against a San Diego Padres team that’s now threatening to unseat the Dodgers atop the National League West.

To survive and advance, the Giants will navigate the final days of their schedule with an offense that’s largely out of practice after playing just 14 innings over a five-day stretch and a pitching staff that’s been inconsistent for much of the year.

A possible silver lining of the time off for the Giants is that Kapler has shuffled the starting rotation in an effort to find the best matchups.

The Giants manager was thrilled to welcome back left-hander Drew Smyly to the team on Thursday in San Diego and gave the veteran a vote of confidence by naming him to start Wednesday’s rescheduled series opener against Seattle. The move sets Smyly up to make three starts over the final 12 games and also gives right-hander Kevin Gausman the chance to take a few additional days off before potentially returning to the mound against the A’s this weekend.

Gausman had been dealing with elbow tightness that required him to miss Sunday’s scheduled start in San Diego, but a MRI revealed he has no structural damage.

“I think the Gausman news is the best news that we could have gotten in the last 48 hours,” Kapler said.

The Giants could also welcome Jeff Samardzija (right shoulder inflammation) back to the rotation or even the bullpen next week after he throws five innings in a simulated game in Sacramento Thursday, but with Gausman likely to pitch again, there’s no need to rely on Samardzija in a major way down the stretch.

In a season that’s been marked by uncertainty, there’s no way to predict how an emotionally exhausted Giants squad will take to being thrust back into a postseason push that few expected them to be involved in to begin with.

Is this the moment where the Giants finally crack, and if so, should fans be disappointed that a team that’s largely overachieved to this point in the season ultimately wilted under unprecedented circumstances? Or is the daunting stretch ahead a chance for the Giants to once again showcase the progress they’ve made under Kapler and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, proving that even in an extraordinary time, the club was able to overcome unexpected adversity?

“We have a staff and a group of players that are resilient and plan well and prepare well,” Kapler said. “This is not easy, but we’re fine. We’re ready.”

It’s impossible to know what the rest of the season holds for the Giants, but a team that has visions of sneaking into the postseason still controls its own destiny. As the 2020 season has shown us, control may not mean as much as it used to.

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Phillies already in damage control mode with JT Realmuto

The Phillies are making it sound like JT Realmuto will not be coming back in 2021.

JT Realmuto has been everything the Philadelphia Phillies could’ve hoped he’d be after acquiring him from the Miami Marlins. Unfortunately, GM Matt Klentak and the front office are preparing for the catcher to test the open market in free agency.

Klentak is trying to ease the pain a potential Realmuto loss would do to the fanbase. While conceding right-hander Sixto Sanchez, who was traded to Miami in that deal, has been electric to start his MLB career, Klentak said that Realmuto has been very productive in his two seasons as a Phillie.

#Phillies GM Matt Klentak on JT Realmuto: "We would love to have JT but when you make that trade, youre trading for 2 years of control & you know that. So, Sixto looked really good against us. Hes looked good this year. But weve had 2 very productive years with JT as well."

— Rob Maaddi (@RobMaaddi) September 21, 2020

JT Realmuto has been white-hot for the Phillies in 2020.

Realmuto has made the All-Star team in 2018 and 2019, and his production in 2020 would’ve likely landed him a spot on the All-Star team again had there been a game this year. Realmuto is hitting .267 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI in 41 games. Over 162 games, Realmuto would’ve hit 43 home runs and 117 RBIs if he kept hitting at this exact clip.

While the Phillies have to be pleased with his production, letting him walk after two seasons would be a major disappointment considering the stockpile of elite prospects Philly sent to Miami. The jewel of that trade for Miami was Sanchez, a 21-year-old who has ridden his blistering fastball to a 2.75 ERA in his first six MLB starts. The young Dominican righty is oozing star potential.

Phillies fans aren’t overly pleased with Klentak at the moment, and losing Realmuto might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Here’s Matt Klentak’s full answer when asked if the performance of Sixto Sanchez puts more pressure on the Phillies to sign J.T. Realmuto.

— Bob Wankel (@BobWankelCB) September 21, 2020

It doesn’t matter how productive Realmuto has been in his two years in Philadelphia. If they fail to win a championship in 2020, a feat that is looking harder to achieve by the day, the Phillies risk the possibility of handing a division rival one of the game’s best young pitchers for two above-average years of production at catcher.

Next: Magic Numbers for playoff contenders

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