The San Francisco Giants have built up a surprising six-game winning streak, but they’ve done it by feasting on two teams who weren’t playing well.
Now it will really get put to the test against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have the best record in baseball by a comfortable margin.
The Giants have had some success against the Dodgers already this year, going 3-4 (while the rest of the league has gone 5-18), with all those games on the road. Winning one game in this series would secure a 4-6 record against the Dodgers for the year, and that would feel like a win of sorts. But winning the series and splitting the season series? That would be excellent.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Where: Oracle Park, San Francisco, California
When: Tuesday (6:45 p.m.), Wednesday (6:45 p.m.), and Thursday (6:15 p.m.)
National broadcasts: Tuesday (FS1) and Wednesday (ESPN, out of market only)
Where they stand
San Francisco Giants
Record: 14-16, fourth place in the NL West
Run differential: -15, sixth in the MLB West
Postseason standing: Sole possession of the NL’s second Wild Card
Current momentum: Won six in a row
Los Angeles Dodgers
Record: 22-8, first place in the NL West
Run differential: +79, first in the MLB West
Postseason standing: Top seed in the NL
Current momentum: Won four in a row
Three Giants to watch
Joey Bart: Spoiler: Bart will probably be on this list for every series preview for the rest of the season. He’s a top prospect, he’s put together encouraging at-bat after encouraging at-bat, and we’ve still only got to see him in four games and three starts. Plus, the Giants are facing a pair of lefties in this series.
Kevin Gausman: Gausman has been tremendous to start the year for the Giants, with 42 strikeouts to just 6 walks. He’ll take the mound on Wednesday, which would normally be a scheduled loss for the Giants, who are facing Clayton Kershaw.
Logan Webb: Things clicked a bit for Webb in his last start, with him allowing 5 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 8 in 7 innings. Shutting down the Dodgers is a bit of a different game than shutting down the Arizona Diamondbacks, but it will be a fun test for the young righty.
Three Dodgers to watch
Clayton Kershaw: Kershaw enters Wednesday’s appearance with four starts on the season. Here’s the stat line from three of those four:
19.2 innings, 8 hits, 3 walks, 2 home runs, 23 strikeouts, 2 earned runs.
And here’s the stat line from the fourth game:
4.1 innings, 7 hits, 1 walk, 3 home runs, 6 strikeouts, 4 earned runs.
That outlier game came in his one start against the Giants. It probably doesn’t mean anything (especially with Austin Slater on the IL), but the Giants might have a little confidence going against an all-time great pitcher (in the regular season), who has historically had their number.
Cody Bellinger: The reigning NL MVP got off to a freezing cold start in 2020, but is starting to turn things around fast. He’s still hitting a little bit below league average (99 OPS+, 97 wRC+), but in his last 5 games he’s gone 7-17 with 4 home runs, 1 double, and 4 walks to just 3 strikeouts. The Giants are throwing a trio of right-handed pitchers at the lefty, so the ability to keep him controlled will be huge.
Walker Buehler: Buehler is one of the most exciting players on the Dodgers, but he’s had some (admittedly small sample) regression in 2020 after an All-Star appearance a year ago. He’s limiting hits as well as ever, but his walk rate has spiked, and he’s giving up more long balls. A year after having 215 strikeouts to just 37 walks in 182.1 innings, he has 28 strikeouts to 9 walks in 25 innings.
His last start was nothing short of phenomenal (4 hits, 0 walks, 1 earned run, and 11 strikeouts in 6 innings), but the four preceding starts — including one against the Giants — were a bit rough. Right now he feels like a bit of a wild card.
Best case/worst case
Best case scenario: It’s pretty simple. The Giants keep hitting well, keep pitching well, and prove that their win streak wasn’t just due to lowly opposition.
Worst case scenario: It’s equally simple. The Giants stop hitting well, stop pitching well, and prove that their win streak was just due to lowly opposition.
Against my better judgement, I’m picking the Giants here. The exciting thing about their winning streak is that it’s felt a bit sustainable. Unlike many of the 2019 winning streaks, it isn’t built on a bunch of one-run wins. And unlike many of the other 2019 winning streaks, it isn’t built on heroic-but-unsustainable individual performances.