Around the West: Playoff race shaping up; one team is pivotal

It’s September, and the pennant races are heating up all around baseball, especially in the National League West, where the Giants (77-59) currently hold a 4.5 game lead over the Dodgers (73-64), while the rest of the division sits back and looks forward to the 2013 season.

There are six games remaining between the two teams, with three to be played this weekend in San Francisco.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers haven’t been able to gain any ground on the Giants these last couple of weeks due to their inconsistency on offense, making for an even bigger match-up up North over the weekend.

The remaining schedule definitely favors the Giants over the Dodgers. Other than the six games against the Dodgers, San Francisco plays the other three National League West teams for the remainder of the season. On the other hand the Dodgers play two first place teams in the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds three times each. They also play four games against the St. Louis Cardinals, who currently hold one of the National League wild card spots.

This last month is going to come down to how the Dodgers play in games against the top teams around the league, and of course the six remaining games against the Giants.

San Francisco Giants – 77-60
The Giants seem to lose when the Dodgers lose and win when the Dodgers win, keeping a 4.5 game lead going into this weekend’s big match-up.

They just lost two out of three games to the Diamondbacks at home, while the Dodgers did the same against the Padres.

This weekend the Giants will send Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Barry Zito to the mound against Los Angeles.

If the Giants can take two out of three games against the Dodgers that can extend their lead to 5.5 games and dig a deeper hole for the Dodgers to get out of. This is going to be the biggest series in baseball over the weekend.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): This pitching staff that keeps me up at night…
•Matt Cain: 13-5, 2.98 ERA
•Madison Bumgarner: 14-10, 3.15 ERA
•Ryan Vogelsong: 12-7, 3.29 ERA
•Tim Lincecum: 8-14, 5.21 ERA

Despite Lincecum’s numbers he should still scare the heck out of Dodger fans everywhere. He has struggled for this long but I believe he can start pitching like an ace again at any given time. (Oh I forgot to mention Barry Zito! Well unless it’s 2002 again, I’m not worried.)

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Giants offense has been hitting the ball well lately, which is a surprise since they lost Melky Cabrera. However, the long ball is something they shouldn’t be able to beat you with, as they rank last in all of baseball in home runs with 82.

Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, hitting .326 with 19 home runs and 85 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Hunter Pence, hitting .234 with two home runs and 25 RBIs in 34 games with the Giants.

Biggest surprise: Marco Scutaro, hitting .325 with two home runs and 24 RBIs in 38 games with the Giants.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 68-70
The Diamondbacks find themselves 9.5 games out the division and just about out of a chance to return to the postseason.

Last month the D-Backs looked like they had one last run in them but couldn’t find a way to get it done. Now its baseball, so I’m not saying this team is completely out of it yet, crazier things have happen.

They have been a pain for the teams fighting for a postseason berth, splitting a four-game series against the Dodgers and taking two out three games from the Giants. I can guarantee you that Manager Kirk Gibson will have this team playing with the same fire that he had as a player, until the very end.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Diamondbacks have given the Dodgers a hard time this season, with a 10-6 overall record against Los Angeles.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): Luckily for the Dodgers, they only see the D-Backs two more times this season, next week. The Giants have to play this scrappy D-Backs team six more times on the year.

Biggest contributor: Jason Kubel, hitting .262 with 27 home runs and 82 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Justin Upton, hitting .271 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs., a huge drop off from his 2011 season: .289 BA, 31 HR, 88 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Wade Miley, 14-9 record with a 2.90 ERA in 24 starts on the season.

San Diego Padres – 64-74
I guess you can say the All-Star break did the Padres well, as they have been the hottest team in baseball since then. As of right now, no team in baseball wants to play the Padres.

They just took two out of three games against the Dodgers, which kept Los Angeles at 4.5 games back in the division instead of 2.5 games. This team is truly playing spoiler and are having fun while doing it. A complete turnaround from the first half of the season has their future looking very bright all of a sudden in sunny San Diego.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Padres are one of the hottest teams since the All-Star break and are taking pride in playing spoiler from here on out.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): Despite the huge improvement the Padres are still ranked in the bottom half of the National League with .244 team batting average.

Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, hitting .285 with 24 home runs and 94 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, hitting .240 with six home runs and 39 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Chris Denorfia, hitting .290 with six home runs and 30 RBIs.

Colorado Rockies – 56-79
The Rockies have been playing a lot better baseball as of late then they were the last couple of months. They will try for a four-game series split today against the Wildcard-leading Atlanta Braves.

A win could actually benefit the Dodgers, who are just 1.5 games out of the wild card. The pitching problem for Colorado has never been solved and next year they announced will be again a four man rotation. It’s been miserable for the Rockies pitching staff this season, labeled as the worst in all of baseball. If this team wants to play spoiler they can take that role with some big games coming up against the Dodgers and Giants.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Rockies can completely ruin the Dodgers playoff chances when they play three big games at Dodger Stadium on September 28-30.

Reason to be optimistic: They continue to hold the title for the worst team ERA in all of baseball, 5.14 ERA on the season.

Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, hitting .310 with 22 home runs and 83 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Drew Pomeranz, 1-8 record with a 4.93 ERA in 17 starts.

Biggest surprise: Josh Rutledge, hitting .329 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs in 46 games.

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