The San Francisco Giants are starting a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night.
/flips table over
Finally. After a month of playing annoyingly talented teams from around baseball, they're back against a team that's inherently stupid and awful. In order to get mad at the Cubs or Pirates, they had to beat the Giants a bunch of times. In order to get mad at the Dodgers, well, you have to look at a picture or two.
/calmly returns table to upright position
/sets table, with salad forks in the right places
/flips table over again
The Dodgers, man. The best team that money can buy. The embodiment of arrogance and entitlement in the baseball world. A roster stuffed with players who chew with their mouth open, and a manager who probably doesn't chew at all. They're also the winners of the NL West in each of the last two seasons and quite talented. This is a gonna cause some indigestion.
If the Giants have any hope for the postseason, they'll likely have to win the West. They probably can't win the West if they win three out of their remaining seven games against the Dodgers. They probably can't win the West if they win four out of their remaining seven games against them, at least not without some serious help. My suggestion, then, would be for the Giants to win at least six of them. Seven would be dandy, though.
The anticipation and nerves are palpable. Which probably means it's time for some fun facts to cut the tension.
Fun fact #1: Zack Greinke eats his own boogers
Okay, wait, hold on, that's not a fact. Probably not a fact. Anyway, that's real immature, so you should probably cut it out. Can we start over? I'm sorry, I don't know how that got in here.
Fun fact #1: The Giants have a fighting chance to have their best season against the Dodgers since 1958
They have a tiny chance to have their best season ever against them, period.
In 1958, the first season the Giants and Dodgers were both on the West Coast, the Giants won 16 of the 22 games they played against the Dodgers. Just as amazing is that they played 22 freaking games against the same team that season. The real reason behind expansion wasn't just money and helping the sport grow. It was to combat aw-jeez-not-these-guys-again fatigue.
That 16-6 record is still the best in franchise history, but there have been other thrilling, dominant seasons against the Dodgers.
The Giants are currently 9-3 on the season against the Dodgers. If they go 4-3 over their last seven games against them, they'll finish with their best head-to-head record against them since 2003. If they go 5-2, they'll beat every season since 1958. If they go 6-1, they will have a higher winning percentage than any season in San Francisco history. If they go 7-0, I will run on the field like Morganna the Kissing Bandit and kiss the player of your choice, provided there's a Kickstarter for my bail money.
There's a chance, though. It's a dream worth having.
Fun fact #2: Since the start of 2010, the Giants are 58-46 against the Dodgers
Another way to put it is they've essentially played like a first-place team, while the Dodgers have played like a last-place team. According to winning percentage, at least. The series has been roughly the same as a 90-win team playing a 90-loss team for over 100 games in the post-Waldis era.
It's been a lot of fun. I'm not so sure why we're all so nervous about the idea of a Giants/Dodgers NLCS. I mean, oh, no, it makes me nervous, and maybe a little nauseous, but, oh no, here it comes
/flips table over while barfing
From 1977 through 1980, the Giants were 20-52 against the Dodgers. That hurts to type, but it's also evidence that there's room for a lot more pain on the Dodgers' side of this. They've earned it.
Fun fact #3: This kind of direct competition in September is rare
As we discovered last year, the Giants and Dodgers usually don't have competitive Septembers against each other.
We're probably here, in the beginning or middle of another Golden Era of Giants-Dodgers rivalry relations. The '60s were rotten with these things. The '70s were just rotten. The '80s had both teams bouncing around, but rarely on the same page, and the '90s had Brian Johnson but little else as far as direct, late-season competition.
How rare is it? This is the first time the Giants and Dodgers have been in direct competition against each other for the NL West in two consecutive seasons since 1965 and 1966. Unfortunately, the '65 Dodgers won the World Series for the third time in seven years, which is just adorable.
Fun fact #4: Mat Latos has been awful with the Dodgers so far
Four starts, with a 6.05 ERA. He still looks like a thumb, and his scheduled turn was supposed to be Tuesday, but he's going to rest a bit, mostly so the Dodgers can get Clayton Kershaw into this series.
I wrote a bot that automatically inserts that when the name Latos is used, don't mind me.
Fun fact #5: The Dodgers have been awful against good teams this year
I love this fun fact. Against over-.500 teams this year, the Dodgers are 20-32. That number fluctuates depending on the Padres' and Diamondbacks' record, but the main point stands: The Dodgers have been at their worst against the best.
I'm doing a ton of data accumulation -- manually, because I'm a moron -- about teams that play that poorly against over-.500 teams and what it means for their chances to win a World Series. Spoiler: Not a whole lot. But I will say that it's rare for any postseason team to be that far under .500 against winning teams. It doesn't mean anything, but it's certainly not common.
Fun fact #6: The Giants probably have their three best pitchers going
When the Giants shut the Dodgers out for an entire series, Tim Lincecum and Tim Hudson both started games. You can look at it a couple ways: "Ha ha, the Dodgers couldn't even hit two hurt pitchers who were removed from the rotation," or "Oh, no, the Giants used up their devil magick in that one series." Either one is reasonable.
Peavy, Bumgarner, and Leake is about as good as it gets, though. Which isn't very inspiring, but we've known the main weakness of the team for a while now, and at least they're lined up about as well as possible.
Fun fact #7: Joc Pederson is in a horrific, gnarly slump
Before gloating, I'm still pretty sure he's built to terrorize the sink-and-slow pitchers the Giants have accumulated this season. He can still annihilate an 88-mph fastball, and he's still someone who can murder hanging breaking balls. But since the last time the Giants saw him, he's hit .156/.300/.287 over 203 plate appearances. That's beyond a rough slump. That's devastating.
Note that Yasiel Puig being hurt isn't a fun fact. Reveling in opposing injuries is never fun. A Puig-related fun fact would have been "Puig was 0-for-13 in the series," and I'm bitter that we won't have a chance at that.
Fun fact #8: Chase Utley is hitting .172 in nine games with the Dodgers
And you were so eager for the Giants to get him, shaking my head.
Fun fact #9: Don Mattingly is still managing the Dodgers
No, seriously, I looked it up on Wikipedia.
I mean, I don't want to tell them how to run their organization, but that seems like a really weird allocation of resources.
Fun fact #10: The Dodgers have been no-hit twice in their last nine games
That is, without a doubt, one of the funnest facts I've ever read. And if Jake Peavy gets through two hitless innings on Monday night, why, the groaning will be heard from space.
There you have it. Ten fun facts about the Dodgers, with one bonus fact that can't be totally verified, but is probably true. I mean, I have my sources. None of this is to suggest the Giants can't get their head stuck in a batting donut and fall down the dugout steps, losing all three games by a combined 25 runs. They're facing Kershaw and Greinke, after all, and the Dodgers can hit. But you looked like someone who deserved some fun facts.