The Giants hold a 7-6 series edge against the Dodgers, which feels somewhat improbable given the circumstances but at the same time... hey, we’ll always have the fact that Joe Panik beat them single-handedly in the first two games of the season, Andrew McCutchen walked them off in extra innings, and Pablo Sandoval pitched a scoreless inning in relief in a doubleheader weekend the Giants actually won. We know the Giants play them tough, no matter the venue.
This three-game series at Dodger Stadium will feature the Giants’ best versus the Dodgers’ best — top three starters versus top three starters, both lineups at 100% — and while I think we’re all good with not talking about the Giants’ playoff prospects anymore, let’s talk about how the Giants can stick a thumb tack on the seat of the NL West to get whichever team tries to sit down.
The Diamondbacks are in first place right now, a full game ahead of the Dodgers thanks to their three-game losing streak, which came at the hands of the Rockies in Colorado. In that series, the Dodgers scored a total of 9 runs and lost all three games by one run (5-4, 3-2, 4-3), the last two games via the ol’ Coors Field walk-off:
That’s not quite a Full Spilborghs, but my goodness, let the Dodgers have that pain.
Anyway, part of the complication for the Dodgers is that Kenley Jansen had to leave the team because of an irregular heartbeat and will miss the next month. That’s a huge setback for a team with plenty of depth everywhere in the organization except the bullpen.
It also means the Dodgers’ playoff scenarios just got a little trickier. Sure, FanGraphs still has them with an 81.5% chance to make the playoffs, but even with a fairly easy home schedule the rest of the way, their upcoming road trips look gnarly, especially with a shaky ‘pen. They have only five remaining road games this month: two at Texas, where if you don’t strike out Joey Gallo it’s a home run and then three in Seattle. September kicks it up a notch:
Three games in Colorado, followed by three in Cincinnati, then four in St. Louis and then the final six games of the season are on the road: three in Arizona and three in San Francisco. The Rockies are nipping at their heels, the Reds don’t rollover as easily as they used to, the Cardinals are figuring some things out by still trying to make a run, and the Diamondbacks and Giants would cut off their nose to spite their face if it meant hurting the Dodgers.
Now, the Dodgers will probably be fine, because they’re always fine until the postseason. They still have Clayton Kershaw, they have Rich Hill, Ryu, and Wood; and, they have Walker Buehler, who’s, like, their version of Dereck Rodriguez but without the Hall of Fame lineage and cool t-shirt.
Yes, the Dodgers will be throwing three left-handed pitchers at the Giants this week (Kershaw, Wood, and Ryu), but the Dodgers haven’t had to face Longoria since the first month of the season (thanks to his broken hand that kept him out of the last series in LA). It’s not that he’s back on track, but he looks a lot better now than he did then. Austin Slater approaches every at bat with confidence and while we probably won’t see a lot of Steven Duggar, we will see some Hanson/Gorkys action, and that could be enough to see something special.
Imagine the Dodgers’ best laid plans blowing up in their faces because Gorkys Hernandez runs out a swinging strike three and then Austin Slater ropes a ball into the left field corner to score him and, somehow, that’s the only run the Giants need? Or imagine Chase d’Arnaud hitting a 3-run home run off of Clayton Kershaw later tonight. Nothing the Giants have at their disposal has been as assiduously analyzed and categorized as what the Dodgers will deploy.
Despite the Giants being out of it, this series will always get its juice from the Elysium-ness of the matchup. The Dodgers are the regal, mind-boggling wealthy elite, and the Giants are the grime monsters who get dirt all over Elysium’s clean lines.
The Giants shoot indiscriminately into the dirt hoping to strike oil, the Dodgers are Daniel Plainview. The Dodgers are high society and the Giants are The Three Stooges, and the only way the Giants can win is by causing a pie fight. The Dodgers are a couple going out on a date for the first time in months and the Giants are their kid’s poopy diaper that spills everywhere, forcing them to cancel their plans.
Basically, the Dodgers’ playoff odds look good, but they’re not invincible. The Giants can cause them problems by being the ugly, messy, no good, gross team they’ve been all season long — nothing pretty, nothing dominant, kinda stinky, but oftentimes effective — and really just, you know, mess with the Dodgers because they can.
Pitcher to watch: Kenley Jansen’s medical emergency prompted the Dodgers to move starters Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling to the bullpen. My guess is that Stripling will get the bulk of the save opportunities, so, I’m labeling him as the pitcher to watch. Both pitchers have increased their velocity in their previous pen moves, but I think Stripling’s fastball is the more dominant one, with that extra rise that absolutely flummoxes hitters.
The Dodgers’ bullpen has been one of the worst creations in baseball history over the past 5-6 years and no amount of Friedmaning or Zaidification has managed to tighten that shit up. And yet, moving two of their best arms into the bullpen automatically makes it scarier than ever before. The good news for the Giants is that they very rarely score runs throughout most games, so it doesn’t really matter who’s pitching against them.
Hitter(s) to watch: Brian Dozier has 10 hits (3 home runs and 3 doubles) along with 10 walks in 11 games with the Dodgers since they acquired him from the Twins at the deadline. He was briefly rumored to be a trade target of the Giants’, so, either watch him mash against Bumgarner and Derek Holland and imagine what might’ve been or prepare yourself for his arrival next season as a free agent.
And then, yeah, let’s just watch the ultra talented Manny Machado. Up close and personal. The 25-year old is hitting .264 / .343 / .407 in 23 games and if the Giants strike out on Harper, he would make an excellent backup option, so either imagine what might’ve been had the Giants had the prospects to acquire him at the deadline or prepare yourself for the Giants going after him and failing to sign him in the offseason.
Prediction: Dodgers take 2 of 3.