Mar 3, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) throws to the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of their spring training baseball game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

NL teams jockeying for position, as San Francisco Giants struggle

The good news is that the San Francisco Giants manage to cling to the best record in the National League, though that may change tonight if they can’t pull off a victory in the opener of a three-game set with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The bad news is that they went 2-8 in their last ten games, the worst in the National League.

With that being said, the Giants still hold their destiny in their own hands with a four-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers, so they need to go into Arizona, fresh after two off-days this week, like gang-busters.  Not only are they coming off of two rest-days (Monday and Thursday), they also will keep in mind that stirring comeback effort against the White Sox on Wednesday night, even if it fell one run short.  You have to start somewhere.

Elsewhere in the NL West, both the D-backs and the San Diego Padres were 3-7 last week, while the Colorado Rockies went 5-5, and the Los Angeles Dodgers led the pack at 7-3.  The Dodgers are heating up, what with Clayton Kershaw joining Josh Beckett by being the second Dodger to toss a no-no this season.  No-hitters have a way of inspiring teammates to excel.

The Dodgers are trying to duplicate last season’s mid-year surge, and they picked an inopportune time for the Giants.  But San Francisco should not be worrying about the Dodgers, half as much as they should be worrying about themselves.  If the Giants can right their own ship, it won’t matter what LA does.

If the Giants can right their own ship, it won’t matter what LA does.

Over in the National League East, the surprise team is the Philadelphia Phillies, who came in at 8-2 over their last ten, the best record in the National League.  The first-place Washington Nationals matched the last-place New York Mets, as each team won five and lost five, while the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves, both recent first-place teams in the NL East, both went 4-6.  

All five teams in the NL East are grouped within five games, and I’m sure no team feels it is out of the competition.  This is one reason why teams like the Nationals played the Giants so competitively a couple of weeks ago: they’re still in the thick of their division races, so it’s all-out against the rest.

In the National League Central Milwaukee, like the Giants, is fourteen games above .500, but the Brewers know that with three other teams hovering around the .500 mark, they have little margin for error.  The St. Louis Cardinals are heating up again, having won 7 of 10, and both the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates played .600 ball last week, going 6-4.  Even Chicago was well ahead of the pace maintained by the Giants, going 5-5.

So that’s a wrap in the National League, where things are not what they were two weeks ago.  A lot can change over the course of a few series, like one team heating up while another cools down.  

San Francisco cannot afford to wait so long that LA catches up and passes them.  It’s now or never.  Sorry, Elvis.

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