Okay, this is it. Every fan of a bad team hopes that the season still comes down to the bad team hurting a good team’s chances of success. There are those fans who like to get really dirty with it — a good chunk of people want Madison Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig to box at home plate — and others who have a more intellectual, detached view of the matter and just want to watch the world burn.
Kenny already laid out the win-loss and tiebreaker scenarios, and already before first pitch we know the Cardinals have lost, meaning they’re in a really tough spot. The best that can happen for them is that they win tomorrow and Sunday’s game, meaning the Giants would need to at least win the series if not sweep to keep St. Louis’ hopes alive.
Now, maybe you’re like me and you could not care less about the Cardinals and their playoff odds, however, the longer they’re still alive, the more trouble that is for the Dodgers. Of course, the Dodgers are in trouble if the Giants win or sweep this series anyway, almost regardless of what the other teams do. The Rockies begin the night with a 1-game lead in the NL West.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that all Giants fans would rather just keep the Dodgers out of the playoffs altogether — no play-in games for the Wild Card game, no Wild Card game, no NL West title.
This is the 2,485th meeting game between these two teams. The Giants have a slight edge over the Dodgers, 1,248-1,218 and a home record of 669-560 (.544). Remarkably, the Giants lead the season series 9-7. The Giants would need to win only one of these games to clinch their third series win in four seasons against their arch rival. They also need to win two of these games to avoid the worst September record in franchise history, so the Giants actually do have something personal on the line.
#rocktober lineup: Pence RF, Panik 2B, Longoria 3B, Hundley C, Crawford SS, Garcia 1B, Slater LF, Hernandez CF, Bumgarner LHP— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 28, 2018
Longoria, Hundley, and Crawford have the #3, #1, and #2 OPSes against left-handed pitching on the active roster at .835, .765, and .761, respectively. They’re also a combined 4-for-12 with two home runs off of him.
Hunter Pence has a .681 OPS this month (52 PA), but in his last seven games (27 PA), it’s 1.000.
Madison Bumgarner’s last hit was a walk-off single on Tuesday. Tonight, he will have one last shot to hit a home run this season.
Help! Lineup: Hernandez 9, Turner 5, Freese 3, Machado 6, Kemp 7, Taylor 8, Grandal 2, Dozier 4, Ryu 1.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) September 28, 2018
The Dodgers have a team OPS of .818 this month. Yasiel Puig (1.110), Chris Taylor (1.061), David Freese (1.130), Justin Turner (.956), and Joc Pederson (.906) are the top 5 in that category in the month. Of course, no Puig in the lineup tonight (Kiké Hernandez is 16-for-36 with 4 home runs against Bumgarner), which is good for the Giants maintaining a level head, but watch out for Freese, who’s 7-for-15 with 2 home runs off the big red ass.
Madison Bumgarner (6-6, 4.00 FIP) has a complicated history with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s 15-10 in 30 career starts against them (his most wins against any other team) with a 2.61 ERA and 1.058 WHIP, and even over his last five starts, he has a 2.38 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 34 innings.
But in both starts he’s made against them this season, he’s pitched 12 innings (he’s averaged closer to 7 per start against them in his career), allowed 12 hits (including 3 home runs), struck out just 7 and walked 6. He also very much does not like Yasiel Puig, and seems constantly on the edge of losing it against the Dodgers’ flamboyant and obnoxious outfielder. Lucky for him and the Giants, Puig is not in the lineup tonight.
Bumgarner has had a rough September. In four starts, he has a 5.48 ERA and averaging just 5.2 innings per start. He’s hit three batters and walked 7 to go against 17 strikeouts, and that goes with 25 hits on a .304 BAbip (remember, .300 is average), meaning he’s basically getting normal luck and the results are still very poor and way below expectations.
All of that goes away if he makes his last start of the season one to remember. The Giants don’t know what they have as a team next year, so in the final series of this year, there’s comfort in the idea of having known quantities performs as expected.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-3, 2.82 FIP) has dominated the Giants the last five times he’s faced them. Despite an 0-2 record, he’s struck out 24 and walked only two batters in 27 innings pitched and allowed 4 runs (2 home runs; 1.33 ERA). The Dodgers have the favorable matchup in all three games of the series.
However, Ryu’s ERA is 3 runs higher on the road than at Dodger Stadium (4.15 vs. 1.15), although admittedly, that’s based on just 21.1 road innings (recall that Ryu wound up on the DL for a couple of months after his groin muscle tore off the bone). This will be only his sixth road start of 2018. He did face the Giants in the doubleheader series at the end of April and struck out 7 in 5.2 innings (allowing 2 home runs).
Still this is somehow just his second road start in his nine starts following his return from the disabled list. His only other start was in Cincinnati (3 runs in 5 innings with 6 strikeouts).
The Giants have just a .662 OPS against left-handed pitchers, and just a .579 OPS overall this month. The Dodgers have the superior matchup in all three games of the series.
It’s clear Ryu will get a lot of punchouts tonight, but it’s less clear if he’ll be as sharp as he is at home.
Don’t forget: the Giants will announce the winner of the Willie Mac Award before first pitch. There’s a nonzero chance that it’s Hunter Pence. Regardless of who wins, Willie McCovey will be on your TV screen.