Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
You never want to count anything as clinched before it’s officially clinched. Still, at this point one of the five National League playoff spots should go to the San Francisco Giants.
But heading into a big series against the rival Dodgers, the National League West is actually within their reach.
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Still, any Giants fans (or Dodgers fans, for that matter) must keep these numbers in mind, regardless of what happens over the weekend in San Francisco.
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So, what do the Giants and their rivals have in front of them?
San Francisco Giants
Upcoming Series: 3 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 3 at Arizona, 3 at San Diego
- Aside from the Dodgers, the Giants have no more games against teams with a winning record.
- The offense is showing what we saw in the first two months of the season. If it’s not Buster Posey and Hunter Pence supplying the offense, the bottom guys like Gregor Blanco and Travis Ishikawa are producing.
- The starting pitching has been top notch. Ideally you want to win the division but the way the rotation is going, they have the depth to go on a playoff run from the Wild Card spot. Even if Madison Bumgarner has to start the Wild Card game, they’re not completely lost if someone like Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson, or Ryan Vogelsong has to take the ball in Game 1 of the NLDS — assuming the Giants win this hypothetical Wild Card game.
- I can’t quite figure out if this is a good team that had a bad few months, or a really inconsistent team that goes on prolonged streaks. Either way, they’re clicking right now.
- Brandon Belt may be coming back shortly.
- Nine in a row at AT&T Park can’t be overstated. This was a place the Giants had struggled for the middle part of the year and home dominance has been a huge part of their recent postseason success, especially in the two World Series wins.
- Last week, I said that the Giants would avoid Clayton Kershaw in the upcoming series. At the time, it was true, but I failed to consider that the Dodgers had an off day and could move him up a spot, which, of course, they did. It won’t be in the same order, but the Giants will get the same three pitchers that swept them — Hyun-jin Ryu, Zack Greinke, and Kershaw. They’ll probably get that trio in 2014’s penultimate series, too. The Giants can win the division, but they’ll have to beat the best L.A. has to offer.
- If we’re looking at the Wild Card game, the Pirates have put themselves into position to claim the second Wild Card spot. It’s far from a lock, but they control their own destiny. Based on the regular season records against each team, the Brewers and Braves are a far better opponent for the Giants than the Pirates.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Upcoming Series: 3 at San Francisco, 3 at Colorado, 4 at Chicago Cubs
- Aside from the Dodgers, the Giants have no more games against teams with a winning record. Sound familiar? Welcome to the benefits of the NL West.
- Yasiel Puig is still struggling, but many of the Dodgers other big names — Dee Gordon, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Juan Uribe — are really heating up.
- The Top-3 are the highlights but aside from Roberto Hernandez, the whole pitching staff is throwing great. Kenley Jansen is dominant. Brian Wilson hasn’t surrendered a run in seven outings. I repeat, if the Giants are going to beat the Dodgers and win the division, they’ll have earned it, as this team is looking really strong right now.
- Nothing really jumps out here. But a three city, 10-game road trip at this time of the year has potential to drain the team. Now, if the Dodgers play well in San Francisco, the pressure of the second two cities goes down quite a bit. If the Giants win the series though, the trips to Colorado and Chicago all of a sudden get a little more daunting.
Upcoming Series: 3 vs. Chicago Cubs, 3 vs. Boston, 3 vs. Milwaukee
- What a difference a week makes. Last week, the Pirates were very much alive, but pretty much needed to handle the Brewers and Braves. Well, they haven’t played either in the last week, but now hold a lead for the second spot and actually have a little breathing room.
- Have you guys heard of Andrew McCutchen? Apparently he’s pretty good. Indeed, the reigning MVP is playing himself into contention for another award, or at least consideration.
- Much like the Giants, the pitching rotation has been solid in nearly all spots. You need that to go on a deep playoff run from the Wild Card spot.
- That last positive has one exception. The last few outings have not been great for Gerrit Cole.
- Pedro Alvarez is still out of the lineup. He’s likely out for at least the remainder of the regular season. Especially with Ike Davis slumping again, the Pirates don’t have much consistent power outside of Cutch.
Upcoming Series: 3 vs. Cincinnati, 3 at St. Louis, 3 at Pittsburgh
- The mental aspect of the game is so hard to figure out. But the Marlins have now won two consecutive games for the first time since August 24-25. After that, they dropped nine in a row and 13 of 14 overall. As bad as that was, they’re still right in the thick of things. So, getting a few wins may get them right in just enough time.
- Carlos Gomez is not only back, but is back in a good way. Jean Segura is hitting well for the first time really all year. Jonathan Lucroy is still hitting well. Ryan Braun hit his first homer of September on Thursday. The offense might just be coming into form.
- Mike Fiers was visibly shaken when he hit Giancarlo Stanton. It’s understandable as I know I’d be the same way. But for the Brewers to get back into the playoffs, Fiers will have to find a way to get over that. Time will tell.
- They’ll also need Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza. With Fiers, I’m concerned with how he bounces back mentally, the performance is actually fine. With Lohse and Garza, the performances have been dismal. You don’t go far in the playoffs without good pitching, if you make it at all.
Upcoming Series: 3 at Texas, 3 vs. Washington, 3 at New York Mets
- The Braves just got very good weeks from Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, and Jason Heyward. Heading into a live yard in Texas, they bats may get rolling in just enough time for that series against the Nationals. The NL East is likely out of reach but if the Braves can’t beat the Nats, it’s not likely that they’ll make the playoffs. So, a hot offense is important.
- Before getting sick, Evan Gattis was on fire, as well.
- He’s had a really inconsistent season, but Aaron Harang pitched incredibly well to get the Braves a much needed win against Stephen Strasburg to avoid a sweep.
- As good as Upton, Freeman, Heyward, and Gattis have been, Chris Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, and B.J. Upton have been every bit as bad.
- In general, this team has just been inconsistent this second half. The remaining schedule isn’t terrible for them, but unlike the Giants and Pirates, a prolonged postseason run just doesn’t seem likely.