The National League West is a two-horse race. It’s been that way for quite some time, and few thought it would turn out any differently. The San Francisco Giants jumped out to a large lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers early, but injuries to key players plagued them as Los Angeles fought back and now lead the NL West by three and a half games.
With about two months left, San Francisco has plenty of time to stage a comeback. They must, however, get and stay healthy if they want to dethrone the high-spending Dodgers.
Things seemed to be looking up for the Giants with the return of Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan, but San Francisco suffered another blow when Belt was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list yesterday just six days after being activated from the same concussion disabled list.
He originally suffered the concussion during batting practice of the Giants’ first series after the All-Star break. He had previously missed time with a broken thumb, as well.
Obviously, his concussion has not fully healed, making his return to the big leagues questionable.
The Giants’ rotation is filled with question marks. Ace Madison Bumgarner mysteriously struggles at home, Tim Hudson has struggled since his spectacular start to the season, Tim Lincecum cannot be relied upon consistently, Ryan Vogelsong has pitched well of late, but still has had a mediocre season, and Peavy is winless over his past 18 starts.
That statistic doesn’t do Peavy justice, though. He has pitched into some bad luck and has received only three runs of support each start (which is the third lowest number in all of baseball).
The Dodgers also have questions surrounding their staff with injuries to both Paul Maholm and Josh Beckett. Maholm is out for the season with a torn ACL and Beckett could miss the rest of the season with hip problems.
They did address their injuries with the acquisition of Roberto Hernandez, but as of now they haven’t addressed the hole Beckett’s injury creates.
The strength of schedule favors the Giants, but both teams’ schedules are among the league’s easiest.
The Giants have an advantage concerning the two teams’ bullpens, though. San Francisco’s bullpen has the major’s third-lowest earned run average, despite the struggles of ex-closer Sergio Romo. Los Angeles, on the other hand, ranks 17th overall.
If San Francisco gets a lead late in a game, they will hold it. The Dodgers can’t be as confident, but their offense is strong enough to cover up a few blunders by the bullpen.
As of now, the Giants hold the tiebreaker by winning seven of 13 against Los Angeles. Six games remain between the two teams; each team hosts a series in September.
What does all of this mean?
With two of the best pitchers in baseball — coupled with a three and a half game lead — the Dodgers will win the NL West. The injuries to Cain and Belt (which will linger longer than expected) prove too much to overcome, while Kershaw and Greinke pitch lights-out ball and lead the Dodgers to a second-consecutive division crown.
While it is possible for the Giants to win the division, Los Angeles has too much talent to be overtaken by a team riddled by injuries.
One thing that is for certain, though: the division will be decided by the six head-to-head games these two teams play in September.
Missing out on the division title doesn’t spell doom, though. Either team could sneak into postseason play via one of the two wildcards. It’d surely be a treat to see a Giants-Dodgers playoff series.
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