Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
This week’s NL West Roundup is going to look a little different from the ones we’ve done earlier.
While the San Francisco Giants will be seeing a lot of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, and San Diego Padres between now and the end of the season, we’re not really scoreboard watching their games — unless they’re playing the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, or Miami Marlins, that is.
So from this week until the rest of the season, we’re going to be looking at the Giants and the teams they’ll be fighting for postseason berths with, whether we’re talking about the NL West or Wild Card. Before we get going, what do those races look like?
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So what do things look like for these teams?
San Francisco Giants
Upcoming Series: 3 at Washington, 4 vs. Colorado, 3 vs. Milwaukee
- The Giants aren’t a team with a lot of offensive depth, but Michael Morse finding his swing again does help matters in a big way.
- Whether it’s just a hot streak or something more remains to be seen, but Joe Panik is looking like the answer to the season-long problem the Giants have had at second base.
- Morse isn’t the only Giant hitting. They have scored five or more runs in four of the last five games. The pitching isn’t what it was in 2010 or 2012, but they’re still good enough to win games when the offense scores five or more.
- After recording the MLB’s first successful protest in 28 years and doing a fair amount of complaining and even accusing, they could have at least won the resumption of the game against the Cubs. The Giants did win the series and even against a bad team, you can’t ask for much more, especially on the road, but turning a loss into a win would have been nice.
- The Nationals have won 10 in a row and the Giants are only 1-5 in Washington over the last two years.
- If the Giants can dig deep and find some of what they had in April and May, now’s the time to do it. They have struggled in a huge way against teams with winning records since then, and the Nationals and Brewers are teams with winning records, and then some.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Upcoming Series: 3 vs. New York Mets, 2 at Arizona, 3 at San Diego
- Hanley Ramirez is due back this weekend.
- At a glance, the injury to Zack Greinke — even if it was minor — is a bad thing. Having said that, bumping Clayton Kershaw up into Greinke’s spot means that if Kershaw starts every fifth Dodgers game for the rest of the season, he’ll be in line to start in each series against the Giants.
- The injury to Hyun-jin Ryu also doesn’t appear serious. So, if he takes the spot of Kevin Correia in the rotation, Ryu will also be in line to face the Giants twice. This is a big positive for the Dodgers because…
- While they haven’t been playing great, the standings accurately show that they’re in control of the NL West race. The Giants and Dodgers play six more times in 2014 and both face a predominately NL West schedule from here on out. But the Dodgers non-division schedule (3 vs. the Mets, 3 vs. the Nationals, 4 at the Cubs) is far less daunting then what the Giants have to face (3 at the Nationals, 3 vs. the Brewers, 3 at the Tigers). So if the Giants don’t at least go 4-2 against the Dodgers, Los Angeles will need a pretty serious collapse to lose the division race. Realistically, the Giants probably need something like 5-1. With Kershaw and Ryu each in line to face San Francisco twice, it doesn’t seem that likely that the Giants will dominate them that bad, even if SF’s own rotation sets up well.
- On paper, the Dodgers have all of the pieces needed to win a World Series. Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu are about as good of a 1-3 as any team offers, certainly in the National League. With Yasiel Puig and Hanley, they can hit for power, especially if either Matt Kemp or Adrian Gonzalez heats up. Dee Gordon can manufacture runs, and Kenley Jansen is a fine closer. Still, nothing about the Dodgers has looked all that extraordinary, and they got smoked by the Brewers, losing five of six games. There’s still a month to heat up, but this is not a team that was built to just win the division, they’re built to win a World Series. They just don’t appear to be that team, at least not yet.
St. Louis Cardinals
Upcoming Series: 3 at Philadelphia, 3 at Pittsburgh, 4 vs. Chicago Cubs
- Jon Jay, Jhonny Peralta, and Matt Carpenter have been very strong over the last month. Matt Adams has had a great week. The Cards haven’t had a great offense this year, but they’re not a team many pitchers have to be wanting to face right now.
- They’ve been going this well without getting great games from Adam Wainwright. When he heats back up, the team gets even tougher to beat.
- If the Cardinals can take care of business against the Phillies and Cubs, it’s going to take a monumental collapse for them to not at least reach the Wild Card game. They’re also going to miss Cole Hamels against Philly. Great break.
- Trevor Rosenthal has been very shaky as the closer. He’s very young and I’m sure long term will be fine, but right now, the Cardinals can’t have much confidence with a late lead.
- The aforementioned guys have been hitting well, but Matt Holliday has really never gotten anything going. The Cards will likely need his power if they’re going to make a long playoff run.
Upcoming Series: 3 at Cincinnati, 3 at New York Mets, 3 vs. Miami
- Normally when a team heats up, you look at the schedule and see that they beat up some bad teams and some good ones are looming. But the A’s and Pirates are good teams, and the Braves won five of six against them.
- The bats are going strong for them. This is especially true with Justin Upton, who’s been red hot at the plate. This is a guy who’s shown borderline MVP form in the past. He’s streaky, but right now, that’s a good thing.
- Mike Minor and Alex Wood are starting to give the Braves some strong pitching depth.
- His last two starts have been good so he may be coming out of it, but Julio Teheran has not had a great month.
- B.J. Upton just can’t get anything going. The Braves are sitting him more and more, but when he’s out there, Atlanta is getting basically nothing out of him.
Upcoming Series: 3 at Milwaukee, 3 vs. St. Louis, 3 vs. Cincinnati
- He hasn’t done very well, but welcome back, Andrew McCutchen. That’s good for the Pirates and honestly, even good for fans of teams battling with Pittsburgh for the playoffs. It was a shame to see him taken out by a team stuck in a bygone era. The game is better when players like this are playing and in playoff races.
- While we’re welcoming people back, welcome back, Gerrit Cole. Overall, the rotation is actually looking pretty formidable.
- Travis Snider is on an 11-game hitting streak. Starling Marte is also on fire. Sure, they’re all likely to cool off at some point, but Cutch will heat up and begin to pick up their slack.
- Gregory Polanco and Josh Harrison are batting a combined .113 over the last month.
- Pedro Alvarez is hitting under .200 over the last month and hasn’t hit a home run since July 11.
- The Pirates have the 18th toughest remaining strength of schedule. That may seem like a good break, but of all the teams they might be battling for a playoff spot with (every team listed here, plus the Milwaukee Brewers), only the Cardinals have a tougher stretch.
Upcoming Series: 3 at Colorado, 3 at Los Angeles Angels, 3 at Atlanta
- He’s only had one start since returning from the DL, but Henderson Alvarez is a really good pitcher.
- We know about Giancarlo Stanton, but Christian Yelich has recorded three hits in each of his last three games. Marcell Ozuna is on a four game hitting streak and has homered in each of his last two games. That may seem like a very small sample size — and it is — but it’s very important to have hot hitters now because…
- The Marlins have a favorable schedule coming in, but these next nine games are very important. The Rockies aren’t anything great, but you need to have a few bats going at Coors Field. After that, the Angels and Braves are both at worst playoff contenders. They aren’t that far behind the Giants, but they can’t rely on all of the teams they’re chasing to collapse, especially since these teams play each other. The next 7-10 games are important for everyone, but more important to Miami than anyone.