The fight for the NL West title comes to it's pre-penultimate matchup in the City by the Bay. The series begins with the Diamondbacks only two games behind the Giants. Looking at the schedules of the two teams, they're fairly similar the rest of the way, so the crown of the NL West really will be decided on the nine head-to-head match-ups left this season.
The last time we faced the Giants was the middle of June in Arizona, when we were only a half game back of first place. Kelly Johnson was hitting .214, Stephen Drew was hitting .291. Josh Collmenter had an ERA of 1.12, and Aaron Heilman and Esmerling Vasquez were mainstays in the bullpen. But after all the activity of the past seven weeks, heck even the past seven hours, this a very different team that heads into San Francisco for a crucial series.
(Keep reading for your last un-funny series preview before Zavada's Moustache is back on duty.)
There's no doubt that the reigning World Champion Giants (I know, I hate typing it just as much as you hate reading it) are a formidable foe. Of their six starting pitchers only Barry Zito has an ERA over four (5.62), and he won't be in the rotation much longer. The three we're about to face this series all have ERAs under three, whereas ours are all over three. Their bullpen is just as solid, and only Guillermo Mota's ERA is over three (4.30). So it's no surprise that they've allowed only 370 runs all season. This team is hard to score on, even more so at home (32-18 record) in front of loud crowds that are always sold out.
But the Giants don't score a lot of runs, either. Their Pythagorean W/L record only has them at 55-52, so they're winning the same way the 2007 Diamondbacks did - by winning the close games. The Giants are third in the majors behind Seattle and San Diego at only scoring 3.57 runs per game, but they have the best record in one-run games, and that's 28-14.
The Giants made two trades before the non-waiver deadline, and that was acquiring Carlos Beltran for their outfield (2-for-17 as a Giant so far) and Orlando Cabrara to play shortshop (their Vortex of Suck this season). The Diamondbacks meanwhile acquired Jason Marquis for the back end of the rotation and Brad Ziegler to shore up the bullpen, and will call up Paul Goldschmidt to man the roving door at first base.
- Willie Bloomquist, SS
- Kelly Johnson, 2B
- Justin Upton, RF
- Miguel Montero, C
- Chris Young, CF
- Ryan Roberts, 3B
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Gerardo Parra/Collin Cowgill, LF
- Aaron Rowand, CF
- Jeff Keppinger, 2B
- Carlos Beltran, RF
- Pablo Sandoval, 3B
- Nate Schierholtz/Cody Ross, LF
- Orlando Cabrera, SS
- Brandon Belt/Aubrey Huff, 1B
- Eli Whiteside, C
The team is certainly beatable, but you have to score against these guys...
(not so) Insightful Commentary: Pitcher's Duel #1. Cain is 3-0 against the Dbacks this year, so he's clearly doing something right, but Ian Kennedy has only given up one unearned run in two games against the Giants. Cain is coming off of a 7-inning, 1-run (unearned) outing against the Phillies, but when Cain faced the Dbacks in June, he gave up five runs. Kennedy, meanwhile, has a 4-game win streak to extend. Outcome: Toss up; will likely depend on bullpen performance.
(not so) Insightful Commentary: Pitcher's Duel #2. You know San Francisco's offense must be pretty pitiful when Tim Lincecum doesn't have 10 wins to start the month of August. Opponents are hitting only .220 off of Timmeh, but he gets barely over three runs per game of support on average. Hudson has given up eight runs to the Giants in his two starts against them this season, which he can't do again if he expects to win. In his last two starts, Hudson has given up a combined nine runs to the Rockies and Padres. Outcome: Edge goes to Lincecum and the Giants for this matchup.
Wednesday, 12:45pm: Jason Marquis (8-5, 3.95) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (8-1, 2.23)
(not so) Insightful Commentary: This is the game the Diamondbacks have the biggest chance to win. Vogelsong has spent the last five years in various teams' minor league systems, and was signed by the Giants in January. He throws a ton of pitches - when the Diamondbacks faced him in June, he thew 114 pitches in only six innings. He's not invincible, but he is good. However, I think Marquis's career experience against the Giants will come in handy here. he threw a complete game shutout against them in April, and over his career is 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA, and he's 4-2 with a 2.61 ERA at AT&T Park. Outcome: Marquis was brought here to beat the Giants, so that's what he had better do...
Final Verdict: The Diamondbacks need to win at least two of three in this series, but I'm not sure they can. Despite just being swept by the Reds, the Giants tend to show up in big situations. I think the Diamondbacks might only go 1-2 in this series.
Since the All Star break, the Diamondbacks have a 10-6 record while the Giants have gone 9-7. The Diamondbacks have been holding their own and just took two of three from both the Padres (whom they should've swept) and Dodgers, but they can't count on San Francisco to lose three in a row like they just did. The key to the NL West is going to be beating the Giants face to face, and that starts today.