Hunter Pence and the San Francisco Giants are set to host the Dodgers in what is, to now, the biggest series of the year. Photo Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
While the competition wasn’t exactly the stiffest the National League has to offer, the San Francisco Giants seem to have found some of their early season form coming out of the All-Star break, winning both series.
Maybe it was the weak schedule, maybe the All-Star break gave Bruce Bochy and company the break they need, maybe it was something entirely different.
Whatever the reason, the Giants strong play — combined with the Los Angeles Dodgers losing two series — has given a slightly different look the NL West Standings heading into this weekend’s Giants-Dodgers series in San Francisco.
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That means that this week, we start with the Orange & Black.
First Place: San Francisco Giants
Upcoming Series: 3 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 3 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 4 at New York Mets
- We’ll start here, and this applies to the Dodgers as well. Who wins the division is still very much up in the air. By the numbers, the two Wild Card spots are as well. Having said that, the Giants and Dodgers have two of the easier schedules remaining, with the Giants being the easiest of any contending team. If they play the way they did for most of June, no schedule is easy enough for the Giants. But realistically, that corner has long since been turned.
- The A’s did beat the Giants in three of four games and there’s no excuses to be made there, they were the better team. But the A’s may well be the best team in baseball. The Giants beat the Padres two of three before that, then took two of three from the Diamondbacks and Marlins after, finally concluding with winning three of four from the Phillies. The Dodgers do pose a different challenge but if nothing else, the Giants look like they can handle the bad teams. Not every series is a potential playoff preview, so, when you consider what we just went over, the Giants getting their swagger back — at least against the bad teams — bodes well for the final two-plus months of baseball.
- Speaking of getting your swagger back, the Giants bullpen has looked strong. Part of their early-season success was a good bullpen and part of their June swoon was a bad one. So, getting those guys back in form is not a small thing.
- Madison Bumgarner looks good. Tim Hudson looks good. They’ll need to pitch well for the Giants, who clearly still need some offensive kick.
- This team just can’t seem to avoid the injury bug. Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt, Matt Cain, Ehire Adrianza, Marco Scutaro, and Joe Panik are all on the DL, or hurt.
- Second base is still a massive void. Dan Uggla may be the next guy they try, but I doubt he’s the answer. Realistically, Brian Sabean needs to pull the trigger on a trade for a second baseman.
- The Dodgers set their second-half rotation for this series, meaning the Giants will see Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Hyun-jin Ryu. Opposing them will be Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, and Yusmeiro Petit. Winning the series is far from impossible, but it would be an accomplishment.
Second Place: Los Angeles Dodgers
Upcoming Series: 3 at San Francisco, 3 vs. Atlanta, 3 vs. Chicago Cubs
- We already mentioned it, but the Dodgers should be in position to make the playoffs. Unlike most teams, they have the pitching to win a one-and-done Wild Card game, and still be set okay for the ensuing best-of-five series.
- It’s a small sample size, but Adrian Gonzalez is slugging an impressive .591 since the All-Star break.
- Yasiel Puig seems to be ready for the series in San Francisco.
- Hanley Ramirez, on the other hand, seems like he’ll miss the Giants series, and possibly more.
- Dan Haren has been struggling mightily. They are already skipping his next turn in the rotation. The Dodgers could make a trade but with the Rays resurgence, they have less of a reason to shop David Price, taking away a big chip for LA.
- The pressure really is on the Dodgers in this series. They’re the team trailing and the pitching match-ups definitely favor them to win the series. No Giants fan wants to see this, but the Dodgers can sweep the Giants and San Francisco would still be okay. On the other hand, if the Giants sweep or really even win the series, the road gets a lot tougher for the Dodgers.
Third Place: San Diego Padres
Upcoming Series: 4 at Atlanta, 3 vs. St. Louis, 3 vs. Atlanta
- The overall pitching staff deserves praise, but Odrisamer Despaigne has joined Tyson Ross as a breakout star this year.
- They may be getting Everth Cabrera, Yonder Alonso, and Jedd Gyorko back shortly. That won’t be nearly enough for this season, but maybe the Padres can get a sense of what those guys have to offer.
- The suspension to Cameron Maybin is unfortunate. I’ve read what he said and really, I have no problem cutting him some slack. But you never want to have one of your players get suspended for 25 games.
- Huston Street is gone. Chase Headley is gone. Realistically, any of this team’s veterans can be gone within the next week. Now, I’m not criticizing the trades, but they’re not going to make the Padres very good in 2014. Objectively, they’re out of the race, so that really doesn’t matter much. Still, I can’t see the Padres fans out there enjoying the last two month of the season.
Fourth Place: Arizona Diamondbacks
Upcoming Series: 3 at Philadelphia, 3 at Cincinnati, 4 at Pittsburgh
- Finally out of the cellar. The Diamondbacks have been in last place all season long and as a guy who’s been a fan of some bad teams, I can say with certainty that finishing out of the cellar is important, even if it doesn’t mean anything as far as the postseason is concerned.
- The bats have been alive in the second half. Paul Goldschmidt has been as good as expected, but the hot streak of Aaron Hill could not come at a better time. He’s a trade candidate and right now, he’s giving opposing General Managers and Scouts a very good look.
- The same can’t really be said from Brad Ziegler. Relief pitchers tend to be big on the trade market and he’s pitched very poorly since the All-Star break.
- Mark Trumbo has done very little since returning from the DL.
Fifth Place: Colorado Rockies
Upcoming Series: 3 vs. Pittsburgh, 4 at Chicago Cubs, 3 at Detroit Tigers
- Corey Dickerson and Josh Rutledge have been red hot to start the second half.
- Brett Anderson had a nice outing in his first start after the break. His health is always an issue, but he can give the Rockies rotation some sort of a boost.
- After avoiding it for the whole season, Troy Tulowitzki is on the DL. Again, unless we’re talking about someone on the Giants or Dodgers, that doesn’t mean much for this season. Still, it is a consistent frustration for the Rockies that their best player can’t ever seem to play a full season.
- They may be back and in the lineup, but Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez haven’t exactly been tearing things up.