The Giants need to fake being a professional baseball team for just 69 more hours. If they can do that, then they might be able to knock their arch rivals out of the playoffs. The stakes have never been higher for a rebuilding franchise, but that’s the juice of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry. It’s the last exit before the offseason and, my goodness, this weekend is one heckuva stop. 2018 can be remembered as something other than an inflection point. To change the course of history, all the Giants have to do is not play like knobs. Is there even a chance?
Of course, StubHub has tickets for all three games of this weekend series, starting at $22, $50, and $30, respectively. Say goodbye to Hunter Pence! Celebrate the Willie Mac Award winner on Friday night!
Anyway, the Dodgers are a much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much better team than the Giants, both presently and recently. But that’s not what you want to hear! You want to hear about how it’s baseball and anything can happen! The Giants can spite their rivals and drag them to hell with they’re dying grasp. That’s very much in play this weekend and you can read Kenny’s great post that outlined all the scenarios, but the more likely outcome is that the Giants will continue their losing ways.
The Giants are fielding a team of sub-replacements and players ready to be washed away in the franchise’s tidal wave of rebuilding. They are currently 5-18, on course to have the worst September in franchise history, averaging just 2.69 runs per game this month; and, as Grant noted in Tuesday night’s episode of Giants Outsiders, the 2018 team has posted the worst 2nd half offense in the entire g-d history of the Giants franchise. I know you’re wondering: last year’s team was only 48th-worst. So, there’s no optimism from a roster standpoint.
Adding to the degree of difficulty: The Dodgers have clinched the NL West against the Giants in three of the last four years. The Dodgers have not lost more than two games in a row this month and are 15-9, outscoring opponents 133-89. For the season, they’re 44-34 (.564) on the road and are outscoring the opposition 410-306. They were 44-37 (.543) at home, and outscored teams 361-295. If you’re keeping track, that’s 5.26 runs per game on the road.
Their .367 OBP at AT&T Park this season (6 games) is the highest of the other NL West parks. Their .759 OPS is only seven points higher than their Dodger Stadium OPS, but it’s also about 100 points higher than their OPS at Chase Field, where they just lost 2 out of 3. They might not run away with these games, but they’re not easily shut down, either.
So, that’s the bad news. The good news? Well, the Dodgers have won just one series at AT&T Park since 2015. That was, admittedly, last September 11-13, which feels extremely relevant, as the Giants are worse this September than last September. It’s also a teeny tiny bit misleading because, maybe technically, the Dodgers won their first series at AT&T Park this season by virtue of winning the rain delayed game from April 6th that became the a Saturday afternoon game on April 28th.
That game, however, did feature Pablo Sandoval pitching a scoreless inning, so it was at least a moral victory for the Giants there. But, yeah, if you want to count it as part of the previous series, then it counts as a series win for the Dodgers. So, that makes the one series note moot. And Andrew McCutchen isn’t here to hit another walk-off home run... so what else have we got?
The Giants still have five things going for them this weekend:
- Spite. Steve Finley’s walk-off grand slam will be 14 years old this coming Tuesday. The Solomon Torres Game will be 25 years old on Wednesday. I say spite and not revenge because revenge is merely a form of spite. The Giants can spite the Dodgers by not rolling over. By not rolling over, they’ll get their revenge.
- They’ll be throwing their best starters against the Dodgers’ best. Now, admittedly the Giants’ best is barely adequate for the major league level, but Madison Bumgarner, Dereck Rodriguez, and Andrew Suarez all pitching at home is the Giants’ best weapon against the Dodgers’ aggressive offense. Home splits for these three?
Bumgarner: 60.1 IP | 1.34 ERA | 1.011 WHIP
Rodriguez: 71.0 IP | 2.15 ERA | 1.00 WHIP
Suarez: 79.1 IP | 3.18 ERA | 1.034 WHIP
- Joe Panik. What a marvelous bookend to the season it’d be for him and the team if he hit a game-winning home run or pair of game-winners. Maybe even just a game-winning hit. A game-winning walk? A game-saving defensive play? Fine. I’ve negotiated myself down to a game-intensifying walk.
- Hunter Pence’s farewell tour. Could the Giants’ starting right fielder play the same role that the Giants’ previous starting right fielder played earlier in the season? He’s 4-for-9 this season against Ryu and Kershaw but has yet to face Sunday’s starter Walker Buehler. Pence’s talent might not match or exceed any single player on the Dodgers, but his heart and hustle might put him in a situation to flummox their talent at some point. Or he could just barrel one last majestic home run for old time’s sake.
- The unpredictability of baseball. Hope is not a strategy, but the “it’s baseball; anything can happen” notion is just a trio of hope standing on each other’s shoulders.
For a long time, BEAT LA was the only good thing about the Giants. The highlight reel was mostly upsetting the opposition. Now that the Giants have had an unprecedented (for them) run of success, BEAT LA doesn’t quite mean what it used to — but, my goodness. It still means something. Go find video of Brian Johnson’s home run. Joe Morgan’s. Andrew McCutchen’s. You’ll hear the same energy in the crowds roaring cheers across all three.
BEAT LA is an energy field created by all Giants fans. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the fandom together. There will be a lot of losing, trades, and retirements over the next few years, but the one certainty — the single constant — will be this rivalry. Every year will have one reason to cheer.
Hitter to watch
This will be Manny Machado’s first trip to AT&T Park as a Dodger, and I think he’s someone to keep an eye on for sure, because he seems like a guy who would insert himself into the rivalry at the last minute. However, this spot in the preview must be reserved for Yasiel Puig.
The Giants are 12-26 since Nick Hundley’s team bonding exercise in which he stood up to Yasiel Puig whose histrionics rankled the Giants’ backup catcher. Puig was suspended by Major League Baseball for instigating the physical part of the altercation, but has posted an .871 OPS since that game.
The Giants don’t like Yasiel Puig. Yasiel Puig is bad. He must be stopped at all costs. The Giants commit a considerable amount of time and energy into policing Yasiel Puig’s behavior, so he’s someone to watch simply because every burp, flinch, and swing will be monitored for provocation. If necessary, the Giants will take action to correct Puig the maniac’s unwarranted and baseball-destroying behavior. You have to watch Puig because Puig will do something that will be bad.
As much as Giants fans want to watch Yasiel Puig get put on a boat and sent out to sea, it’s worth noting that the last time Madison Bumgarner got bent out of shape about the opposition’s behavior, he gave up a grand slam. If the Giants are going to make the Dodgers look bad by winning games this weekend, they should just let the Dodgers look bad by losing games to the Giants.
Pitcher to watch
Clayton Kershaw’s sole purpose is to be the stopper and the ace. He could either clinch a playoff spot or play-in game spot with a win on Saturday and his unassailable track record against the Giants is enough to make any sober, rational person think, “Yeah, forget the rivalry. It’s Kershaw. The Giants are totally boned.”
He’s struckout 23 in 22 innings against the Giants in 2018 (3 starts) but he’s yet to shut them out, which is a bit unusual. Also, he failed to shut out the Giants when they were mostly at full strength. Saturday, he’ll be pitching against... a lineup featuring... some players the Giants were able to round up in time for the game.
The Giants will win one of these games just so we can remember what it feels like before the sweet release of a lengthy, perhaps perpetual rebuild for the rest of our lives.