Since August 30th, the number “4.5” has been involved in many-a-sentence when talking about the NL West since that’s how many games have separated the Giants and the Dodgers from that date through today, now a week of stationary-ness. Nobody needs to let these two teams know about the implications of this series: After this series, there will only be three games left between the two squads.
A scenario run: If the Dodgers sweep the series, they’re 1.5 back, very much in the playoff hunt with 21 games left to go for them (Giants would have 22 left). They win two, they’re 3.5 back, where they know there’s still a chance for the West if they hang around. If they win one, the distance is 5.5, and while the deficit isn’t impossible to make-up, every game for them becomes one of those “must wins.” (Even though the only time it’s a “must win” is when technically you’re on the blink of elimination. I digress.) In the most ideal situation for the Giants, if the Dodgers get swept, LA is down 7.5 games, postseason sights firmly set on the Wild Card, but of course they still have time if they can pull off a crazy run. These teams will have to make up for their recent struggles if either has dreams of winning this series.
Friday, September 7th: RHP Josh Beckett vs. RHP Tim Lincecum
One sentence summary: In just two starts, Josh Beckett has 15 K’s in 12.1 IP with 2 HRA, while Tim Lincecum was able to go longer than 6 IP in his last start for a staff that is currently struggling to shut down the opposition as it is used to and work into the 7th.
Saturday, September 8th: LHP Chris Capuano vs. RHP Matt Cain
One sentence summary: Chris Capuano has 16 IP in his last three starts with only 9 K’s and 4 HRA, and Matt Cain just had a small streak of going 7+ IP of four streaks snapped against those Cubbies (5 IP).
Sunday, September 9th: LHP Clayton Kershaw vs. LHP Barry Zito
One sentence summary: Clayton Kershaw has gone less than 5 IP once — on his first start of the year, and hasn’t gone less than 6 IP in a start since July 24th, and it seems like a mismatch against another former Cy Young winner in Barry Zito who wasn’t allowed to go past 5 IP after Arizona started mounting a rally against him in the 6th inning.
Hollywood Bats and Awkward Swings
While it may be no surprise to you that the three warmest bats from LA may only comprise one Dodger from 2011 in Andre Ethier (.420 wOBA and 3 HR in the last 7, .357 wOBA and 17 HR overall), you may raise an eyebrow when you find out that the two are Hanley Ramirez (OK, no big surprise — .385 wOBA and 2 HR L7, .341 wOBA and 21 HR overall), and Luis Cruuuuuuuuuuuuz (.359 wOBA L7, .339 wOBA overall). What you don’t want to do is wake up the sleeping bison in Matt Kemp (.201 wOBA and 1 HR L7, .397 wOBA and 18 HR overall), who is already scary in the lineup even if he’s cold like he is now.
The impossible happened the other day when Brandon Belt homered off a RHP for the first time this year, and it’s not lost on anyone that he’s so hot right now (.576 wOBA and .563 BABIP in the last 7, .343 wOBA and .359 BABIP overall). Also getting going is the now-injured Xavier Nady (.440 wOBA L7,.239 wOBA overall), and the very defensively-unchallenged Brandon Crawford (.431 wOBA L7, .278 wOBA overall). Nady’s injury becomes a problem in light of Gregor Blanco‘s coldness (.154 wOBA L7, .305 wOBA overall) and has management scrambling to figure out if they’ll put even someone like Ryan Theriot (.246 wOBA in August, .281 wOBA overall) in LF, which is a nightmare for many when they start thinking about it too much.
Stuart’s Series Prediction
The Giants have gone 7-5 over the Dodgers, in the last three series vs. LA going winning sweep, losing sweep, winning sweep. Elementary school patterns tell us a sweep by the Dodgers is on the horizon, and that actually isn’t too farfetched of an idea given the struggles of the Giants SP. Baseball though, it works in mysterious ways.
Friday: Dodgers win (Josh Beckett keeps performing well enough as a Dodger)
Saturday: Giants win (Capuano struggles while Cain becomes the first Giant to shine in a while)
Sunday: Giants win (Barry Zito may not last 5, but this is where the Giants bullpen will save the day)
Could I be wrong? Absolutely. Your prediction may even be an infinite times better than mine. What we should be able to agree on is that this should be a very interesting series that most of the country will keep their eyes on when they’re not watching other big series like New York-Baltimore, and Texas-Tampa Bay… unless they’re all managing their fantasy football teams during those games.