10:10 PM EST – Line: Los Angeles -122
A potential playoff preview is hand tonight in the City of Angels, as the Los Angeles Dodgers host the San Francisco Giants in a National League West duel. Coming into tonight’s contest, the first of a three-game series, the Giants (84-71) find themselves in a bit of No Man’s Land; on one hand they continue to trail their opponent tonight by 4.5 games in the division, but on the other comfortably possess a stake in the National League Wild Card, as they sit 4.5 games ahead of the Brewers for the final postseason birth. The magic number for these guys is three (thanks Milwaukee!), as they stand tied with Pittsburgh in the Wild Card. In all likelihood it will take a three-game sweep in this series to close the gap on the Dodgers, but in the meantime Bruce Bochy is preaching to his club that if they just get into the Big Dance, then anything can happen. After all, that rhetoric has worked before, particularly in 2010 and 2012 in which they won the World Series.
With that said, in both of those instances the Giants were playing some of their best baseball of the season heading into the Playoffs, riding a considerable amount of momentum towards postseason success. That hasn’t been the case this season, as Bochy’s club has gone 41-50 after racing out to a 43-21 record to kick off the campaign. A dreadful 10-22 stretch heading into the All-Star Break brought them crashing down to Earth, just as losing six of their past eight games has rendered them to looking up in the NL West. Most recently, San Francisco was swept in a three-game set at San Diego, in which their offense looked all but anemic as their typically sound pitching was hammered by the suddenly-streaking Padres. Over the course of the three games, the visitors could muster just four runs, while conceding a whopping sixteen. In the finale, they were relegated to just a pair of runs on six hits, including a 2-for-20 performance from the top of the order with seven strikeouts. Starting Pitcher Ryan Voglesong (8-12, 3.96 ERA) was pretty solid, allowing four runs (but only two earned) on four hits over five innings, striking out five Padres while issuing just one walk, but the Bullpen proceeded let things get out of hand, as Javier Lopez (2.23 ERA) relinquished a run immediately in relief , while Jean Machi (2.27 ERA) yielded another three runs in the 6th Inning. Attempting to right the ship tonight will be Jake Peavy (6-4, 2.16 ERA), who looks to extend a career-high four-game winning streak . Peavy has gone 6-1 with a 1.13 ERA over his last seven starts, and is 6-0 with a2.51 ERA in his nine starts at Chavez Ravine.
Meanwhile, the magic number for the Dodgers (89-67) is also three, for with three more victories they will have earned their second consecutive NL West title. Once the Giants began to squander their healthy lead in the division, Don Mattingly’s charges took advantage, going 35-24 since the All-Star Break, on the strength of arguably the finest Pitching Staff in the Majors. However, the prevailing question that must be answered is if indeed Los Angeles will have the requisite offense needed to win in October, for their maddeningly inconsistent lineup has hampered them on a number of occasions thus far. Wit that said, perhaps something has clicked for these guys; in the month of September thus far they have scored a whopping 117 runs, including seventeen in a shutout of the Giants back on September 13th. Could they have finally turned the corner? If so then the Dodgers could make for a frightening opponent in the postseason.
With San Francsico’s loss three-game sweep at San Diego, Los Angeles took advantage of the opportunity to extend their lead in the NL West to 4.5 games with 3-1 series victory over the Chicago. In the finale, the Dodgers dealt the Cubs an 8-5 defeat, thanks to a sixteen-hit performance from a lineup that feasted on the hosts’ struggling pitching. Adrian Gonzalez (40), Hanley Ramierz (35), Juan Uribe (22), and Scott Van Slyke (13) all recorded doubles, while Matt Kemp took Jacob Turner yard for his 23rd home run of the season. Kemp has been on fire of late, batting .340 with eight homers and 24 RBIs over his last 25 games. He has also batted a blistering .371 with five homers and sixteen RBIs in his past nineteen outings versus the Giants. Reliever Jamey Wright (5-4, 4.30 ERA) got the nod to start for the first time this season, allowing one run over two innings, while striking out three Cubs and walking a pair. Carlos Frias handled the following three innings allowing three more runs, before Chris Perez, Paco Rodriguez, Pedro Baez, and Kenley Jensen finished the contest, with Rodriguez earning the victory, his third of the season. Of course, Wright got the start to afford Dan Haren (13-11, 4.14 ERA) an extra day of rest before he heads to the bump tonight. The veteran right-hander definitely needed the respite, for he has struggled mightily of late; Haren was tagged for five runs over five innings in a 10-4 loss at Colorado last Tuesday. He has yet to face the Giants this season, and hasn’t seen them since pitching for the Nationals last season.