Giants, Dodgers renewing rivalryBy Matt Verderame
Going into Wednesday, the San Francisco Giants are leading the Los Angeles Dodgers by a half-game in the National League West.
Los Angeles has to be thrilled with its current position. The Dodgers looked sunk in late June when Clayton Kershaw – the best pitcher in baseball by a country mile – went on the disabled list with a bad back. Kershaw still has not returned and could miss the rest of the season if rehab doesn’t go right, and yet Los Angeles has been gaining ground week after week.
The Dodgers, 63-49, have pulled even in the loss column despite a rotation that features Kenta Maeda as the ace. Behind him, it is a recently-acquired Rich Hill, who is on the disabled list, along with veterans Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy. It’s nothing short of a miracle that the Dodgers have been able to stay over .500 with that group, let alone pushing for the division title.
Meanwhile, the Giants can’t seem to get it together. San Francisco has a trio of Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner on the bump but the offense has been terrible. Outside of Brandon Belt, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, not one Giants hitter is batting above .270 or has swatted double-digit home runs. Belt is leading the team in homers with 13.
San Francisco also struggles to manufacture runs with speed. Only Denard Span and Angel Pagan have stolen at least 10 bases. Without speed or power, the Giants need to rely on the aforementioned starting pitchers to be perfect, along with Matt Moore, who was traded for at the deadline on Aug. 1.
Ultimately, the Dodgers and Giants are in position to give us one of the best races in recent memory. The rest of the National League appears to have division winners in the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals, both whom could clinch with a few weeks to go.
San Francisco and Los Angeles both moved to California from New York following the 1957 season. Since then, there have been some memorable seasons and races, particularly in 1962 when the Giants took out the Dodgers in a playoff. Los Angeles is desperately trying to make a push with a veteran team, not having won a World Series since 1988 when it upset the vaunted Oakland A’s.
In contrast, the Giants are simply looking to build upon one of the more underappreciated dynasties in recent memory. San Francisco won the Fall Classic in 2012, 2012 and 2014, and now aims for a fourth title in the decade.