The San Francisco Giants moved into a five game lead in the NL-West after taking two of three games against the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend, but dropped its first game against the Colorado Rockies in a series that extends until Thursday night. As the San Francisco reaches the last stretch of the 2012 regular season, it finds itself with a fairly friendly schedule, battling the NL-West in the final 21 games. Let’s take a look at how the Giants match up against their division foes as the team looks to get back into the postseason.
The Giants have kept a steady lead over the NL West for quite some time. And fittingly, the team will play out its remaining schedule against their division, including a six-game road trip to Colorado and Arizona, followed by a ten-game home stand and a pivotal trip to Los Angeles to play a three-game set with the second-place Dodgers.
“We hope we have it locked up before (the L.A.) series,” relief pitcher Sergio Romo said, echoing the sentiments of the entire team after Sunday night’s 4-0 blanking of the Dodgers. They also have a 96.4 percent chance of making the post-season, according to ESPN’s playoff percentage.
Three games vs. Colorado Rockies (57-83): The Giants have played the Colorado Rockies fairly well during the regular season. Currently, they own an 8-4 record against their division foes. In the second game set to kickoff Tuesday, San Francisco will send Madison Bumgarner (14-10, 3.15) to the bump to battle the sneaky-hot Jhoulys Chacin (2-4, 4.85), who has a 1.27 ERA in his last four starts.
In game three of the series, it will be a matchup between two streaky, albeit underwhelming, pitchers in Tim Lincecum (8-14, 5.21 ERA) and Jeff Francis (5-4, 5.73 ERA). While Lincecum has delivered solid starts in his past four outings, his body of work says it all. But Francis might be worse. In his last start against the Giants, he struggled mightily letting up six earned runs in 3.2 innings of work. San Francisco should be chomping at the bit to face him again.
Six games vs. San Diego Padres (67-75): The Giants will split two three-game series with the Padres in the final three weeks of the regular season. In total, they have only surrendered four losses to the eight wins they’ve managed to pile on against their rivals to the south.
The six games left between the Pads give the Giants a sure advantage. For one, San Diego posts well below the average in most, if not all, offensive statistics. Against the league, they are 26th in runs scored, 24th in batting average, 20th in on-base percentage and a miserable 27th in slugging percentage. Statistics like these might make the Giants pitching staff swoon.
Three games vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (69-72): 5-7 The Diamondbacks are the only team in the NL West division that owns a winning advantage over the Giants. Currently, they stand at 7-5 over San Francisco, which includes a three-game series to start off the year. They will begin their season series on Sept. 14 at Chase Field, but chances are the D-backs postseason hopes will be lost by then.
Arizona might not summon the same energy and poise over the course of their winning record against San Francisco. With new September call-ups making a push into the lineup, the Diamondbacks might be holding a tryout for next year’s revamped squad rather than squashing post-season hopes for others.
Three games vs. Las Angeles Dodgers (74-67): This may be the most crucial series set against the Giants as the season comes to a close. First of all, if San Francisco hits a road block in the next three weeks, they might be playing out their fate at Dodgers stadium come October 1-3.
The Giants do have a cushiony 9-6 game edge of the Dodgers, including a three game sweep during the Aug. 20-22 series at AT&T Park. But both ball clubs are a whole new team. First, the Giants signed second baseman Marco Scutaro and outfielder Hunter Pence after seeing their All-Star outfielder Melky Cabrera serve a 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Also, the Dodgers made a historical nine-man trade with the Boston Red Sox, receiving slugger Adrian Gonzalez along with right-hander Josh Beckett, to name a few. However, recent sightings have indicated that their new blood might not be the answer to a division crown.
Adversely, the second-place Dodgers have a tough schedule of their own. The ball club plays three of five teams with a record above .500: at Arizona (69-72), St. Louis Cardinals (75-65), at Washington (86-54), at Cincinnati (84-57), at San Diego (66-75) before it plays host to the visiting Giants.
The Giants are sitting pretty with a robust 5.5 game lead over their division rivals in the NL-West. A healthy dose of NL MVP numbers from Buster Posey, glimpses of brilliance from Angel Pagan, Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval and timely pitching from their All-Star caliber staff can mean good things down the road and a cushiony playoff birth.