Winning the West, Step 1: Beat LA
Plain and simple, the Giants will not win the NL West unless they start improving against the Rockies, Padres, and Dodgers. Some of the most horrific stretches of play this season have come against teams in our own division, and as such have dug us into a bit of a hole here in July.
Out of first by 4.5 games and trailing the Wild Card by half a game, the Giants are still very much in the chase for a playoff spot. For the transition from contender to true playoff team to occur though, they need to improve on their 9-20 record against NL West competition. The Giants are 1-7 against the Padres, 4-6 against the Rockies, and 1-5 against the Rockies, with plenty of games left to play against all three teams.
The three game set against the Dodgers on the road represents the beginning of turning this unfortunate trend around. The Dodgers are coming off of a sweep at the hands of the Cardinals and are in the midst of a freefall. The Giants just won three of four from a formidable Mets team, and honestly would have swept were it not for Phil Cuzzi. Buster Posey is proving his first half wasn’t a fluke, Pablo Sandoval is beginning to show signs of the old Kung Fu Panda, and the pitching staff has been as good as ever.
All these factors are converging in Los Angeles tonight, making this the perfect opportunity to get back on the horse against teams within the NL West. Playing a struggling team while your own is just beginning to find its stride entering late July presents the Giants with a golden opportunity. And while we play the reeling Dodgers, the Padres draw the red-hot Braves, who have built themselves a considerable lead over the Mets and Phillies in the NL East.
With the opportunity to pick up some games in the standings against a Padres team that seems determined to never lose again, the Giants will send Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, and Barry Zito out opposite the Dodgers’ James McDonald, Clayton Kershaw, and Chad Billingsley. After this series, the Giants make their way to Arizona to play a four game set against the one team in the NL West that we can still beat (3-2 against them on the season).
These next seven games are going to be crucial in terms of moving up the standings. The Giants have drawn an easy schedule for the next few weeks, while their NL West opponents aren’t so lucky. It may seem pretty obvious, but we absolutely need to take advantage of this next stretch of games. Come September, things may not be so easy. From August 30th through September 16th, the Giants play nothing but NL west competition. We play Colorado at home, then go on a road trip to LA, Arizona, and San Diego. The following homestand kicks off with a three game set against the Dodgers.
This next series will be a litmus test of sorts to how this new and improved Giants team will fare against some of their most important opponents. It represents a golden opportunity to gain some confidence back, and what better way to do it than against team as inherently evil as the Los Angeles Dodgers?
As we look to Beat LA, let’s start the week off the right way with a Monday link dump: