San Francisco Giants: Next Dodgers Series is Make or Break


September is very nearly upon us, and for the San Francisco Giants, that means their August schedule gauntlet is nearly over. There’s just three games left in their stretch of 26 consecutive games against winning teams, and this series is, by far, the biggest of them all.

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Through the first 23 games of that tough span, the Giants went 10-13, and were hampered by the same problems that have dogged them for a good portion of the season. Their starting pitching has been wildly inconsistent, and as a result of the numerous short starts, the bullpen has been overworked. The offense ran into a lot of tough pitchers, and couldn’t put together enough runs to make up for the pitching falters.

Despite all of that, the Giants are still in the race in the National League West. They trail their archrivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, by 3.5 games, and entering this three-game matchup, their penultimate series together this year, the Giants have got to find a way to at least start closing the gap.

The Giants have given the Dodgers many opportunities to pull away in the division over the past month, but the Dodgers have been kind enough to let the Giants hang around.  When the Giants went 2-5 on their most recent roadtrip, the Dodgers suffered through a five-game losing skid, and the Giants actually gained a game in the division.

Momentum is on neither team’s side right now. The Giants split six games on the last homestand, and just when it seemed like they righted the ship with a three-game winning streak, they dropped the last two games in demoralizing fashion. The Dodgers put together a five-game winning streak against the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs, but on Sunday, they ran into the buzzsaw. Jake Arrieta no-hit the Dodgers, marking the second time in nine days that the Dodgers were held hitless, an NL record.

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Both teams will have the benefit of sending their three best pitchers to the mound during their three-game soirée. In game one, Jake Peavy takes the ball for the Giants, facing the Dodgers for the first time this season. He’ll hope to match what he did at Chavez Ravine late last season, when he allowed only two runs in seven innings, allowing the Giants to win late. He will be opposed by Brett Anderson, who has quietly put together a solid season for LA, going 8-8 with a 3.36 ERA and 1.303 WHIP. Anderson has faced the Giants four times this year, and is 1-2 with a 4.71 ERA (his highest against any opponent this season).

Game two will be a dogfight. Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke will lock horns, looking to give their team an advantage. Bumgarner is coming off a fabulous August, when he won all five starts with a 1.43 ERA and 0.717 WHIP. Greinke has to be considered the frontrunner for the NL Cy Young Award, with a 14-3 record, 1.61 ERA, and 0.848 WHIP. Bumgarner will have to be at his best when he matches up with Greinke.

The finale will feature the always dominant Clayton Kershaw, while Mike Leake will get his first taste of the West Coast rivalry. After a slow start to the season (by his standards), Kershaw has turned it on lately. In his last 11 starts, he owns a 0.95 ERA, 0.741 WHIP, and .182 opponent batting average. San Francisco has had Kershaw’s number this year, as they were victorious in all three matchups, but they haven’t faced him since May.

Leake has been very good since joining the Giants, but is still looking for his first win in orange and black. In six games (five starts) against the Dodgers, Leake is 2-3 with a 5.35 ERA and 1.358 WHIP. This start would be a perfect time for his first win as a Giant.

Reinforcements are coming for the Giants, and they are desperately needed. Brandon Crawford missed the last series against the St. Louis Cardinals with a mild oblique problem, but he is expected back in the lineup to face the Dodgers. His bat is going to be a welcome addition in the middle of the Giants’ order.

When rosters expand on Tuesday, the Giants will be able to add some length to their bench, and add some bullets to the bullpen. September will be a welcome reprieve for some guys whose legs may be starting to get weary. Angel Pagan and Tim Hudson will be activated from the disabled list, and minor leaguers will be recalled. Joe Panik is also about a week away, as he is expected to join the team during the final series of this roadtrip.

This series with the Dodgers will be make or break for the Giants. They need to stay close in the division, as the season is winding down and there won’t be many opportunities left. A Dodgers’ sweep would be disastrous. A Giants’ sweep would mean a brand new ballgame in the division. The Giants have to find a way to fight through and stay alive.

Next: Giants Coming Together in Face of Injuries