N.L. West Rundown: Very early season shows West will be tough

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The Los Angeles Dodgers (8-10) snapped a six game losing streak yesterday, taking one of three games over the weekend against the Baltimore Orioles.

So far it’s been a frustrating start for the Dodgers to say the least. First, Hanley Ramirez starts the season on the DL, then, Zack Greinke breaks his collarbone in a bench-clearing brawl with the San Diego Padres, and now Chad Billingsley got placed on the 15-day DL yesterday with discomfort in his throwing elbow.

It doesn’t help that the rest of the National League West division has been playing great baseball during the Dodgers’ struggles. The Dodgers will begin a three-game series with the New York Mets tomorrow, and then travel back to Los Angeles to face the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend.

Colorado Rockies (13-5)

It’s been somewhat of a shock around the baseball world to see the Rockies at the top of the National League West division, at least for the time being. This team can flat-out hit the baseball, with Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler leading the way.

Opposite of the Dodgers, the Rockies snapped a seven-game winning streak yesterday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, Colorado was hit by the injury bug this week as well, when starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin got placed on the 15-day DL with a back strain.

The Rockies will begin a three-game series tonight with the Atlanta Braves at home, and will follow that up with a four-game series on the road against the Diamondbacks starting Thursday.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Rockies offense ranks first in baseball with a .282 team batting average.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): This Rockies offense will eventually fall off a bit during the long season.

Biggest contributor: Troy Tulowitzki, hitting .328 with six home runs and a team-leading 17 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Jeff Francis, with a 1-1 record and 8.25 ERA in three starts.

Biggest surprise: Jhoulys Chacin, with a 3-0 record and 1.46 ERA in four starts.

San Francisco Giants (12-7)

The defending World Series champs are coming off a three-game sweep against the Padres. It was much-needed after the Giants got swept in a three game series against the Brewers.

They will be in the race for the long haul once again, with a legit starting five and timely hitting. The bullpen has been one of the brightest spots for this team, making it difficult to beat them if they have a lead after seven innings.

Believe it or not, Barry Zito has been their most reliable starter so far this season, posting a 3-1 record with a 3.42 ERA in four starts.

The Giants will start a three-game series tonight against the Diamondbacks at home, and then will begin a three-game series over the weekend with the Padres in San Diego.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): Matt Cain (7.15 ERA) and Ryan Vogelsong (5.89 ERA) will eventually come back to earth.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Giants’ offense ranks 24th in baseball with just 11 home runs this season, so they won’t usually beat you with the long ball. However, the Dodgers rank even lower than that with 10 home runs so far this season.

Biggest contributor: Pablo Sandoval, hitting .290 with three home runs and team leading 17 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Buster Posey, hitting .232 with one home run and eight RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Brandon Crawford, hitting .317 with three home runs and seven RBIs.

Arizona Diamondbacks (10-8)

The Diamondbacks have surprised some people to start the 2013 season. After trading away all-star Justin Upton in the offseason, they have taken on a new approach of grinding out wins.

They lost two of three games over the weekend in Colorado against the hot-hitting Rockies.

Their pitching staff currently ranks eighth in baseball with a 3.44 team ERA, while their offense ranks ninth in baseball with 84 runs scored through the first 18 games of this season.

Without Upton, the Diamondbacks are finding ways to win and sit just three games out of the National League West division. However, they lost one of their key contributors last week due to an injury — starting second baseman Aaron Hill, who got placed on the 15-day DL with a broken left hand.

They will start a three game series tonight in San Francisco, and then will return home to play four games against the Rockies starting on Thursday.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Diamondbacks will be one of those teams that stick around for most of the season and will try to knock you out of playoff contention.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Diamondbacks don’t have that one player in their lineup that strikes fear into the opponent.

Biggest contributor: Paul Goldschmidt, hitting .329 with three home runs and a team-leading 13 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Brandon McCarthy, with an 0-2 record and a 7.06 ERA in four starts.

Biggest surprise: Gerardo Parra, hitting .289 with one home run and three RBIs.

San Diego Padres (5-13)

Every Dodger fan is now forever rooting against the Padres for obvious reasons, and the team sits in last place in the division. The Padres got swept over the weekend in San Francisco and haven’t had too many bright spots so far this season. Their 4.49 team ERA ranks them in the bottom half of baseball and they have allowed the fourth-most home runs in baseball with 23 this season.

Surprisingly, the Padres’ success this season has come against the Dodgers.

The Padres will begin a six-game home stand tonight with three games against the Brewers, and then three games against the Giants over the weekend.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): Four of the Padres five wins this season have come against the Dodgers.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Padres don’t have the fire power to compete with a healthy Dodgers team.

Biggest contributor: Yonder Alonso, hitting .262 with two home runs and team leading eight RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Carlos Quentin, hitting .174 with no home runs and three RBIs. (Public Enemy No. 1)

Biggest surprise: Nick Hundley, hitting .320 with one home run and five RBIs.

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NL West Rundown: Who will push the Dodgers this year?

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Opening day is here. Considered by many as just another day on the calendar, it’s far from it around the baseball world.

All 30 MLB teams, 750 players and thousands of fans of their respective teams are never more optimistic than today, with the same goal of playing deep into October and winning the World Series.

The National League West division of course has more than a few storylines entering this season.

It’s a division headlined by the defending world champion San Francisco Giants and one of wealthiest teams in sports history, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Giants and Dodgers should be the two ball clubs battling it out at the top of the division for most of the 2013 season, while the other three teams try to stay competitive and in striking distance during the dog days of summer.

San Francisco Giants
The defending World Series champs are basically going to battle with the same team as last season. After an offseason that included resigning Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan and giving 2012 National League MVP Buster Posey a nine-year/$167 million contract extension.

The Giants success over the last few seasons has been because of their starting rotation, and that won’t be any different going into this season either.

Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong will hold down the front end of the rotation once again, with former Cy Young Award winners Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum at the back end.

For whatever reason this team will probably be overlooked entering the 2013 season, but after winning two World Series Championships in the last three years overlooking this team again would be a travesty.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): They won the 2012 World Series and nearly everyone from that team is returning in 2013. Do I really need to say anymore?

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): It’s tough to say if the Giants are improved going into the 2013 season, while the Dodgers offseason moves make them a lot better than last year on paper.

2012 Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, .336 BA, 24 HRs, 103 RBIs.

2012 Biggest disappointment: Tim Lincecum, 10-15, 5.18 ERA, 186.0 innings pitched.

2012 Biggest surprise: Marco Scutaro, .362 BA, 61 games, 44 RBIs.

Arizona Diamondbacks
The 2013 Diamondbacks look a lot different from last year’s team that finished exactly at .500 (81-81). They decided to trade away 2011 Silver Slugger Award winner Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves for Martin Prado and a couple of prospects. The trade was reportedly made to change the clubhouse mentality of the Diamondbacks, where manager Kirk Gibson wants to win with hard-nosed ball players that he can relate to.

They also traded away last years starting center fielder Chris Young to the Oakland A’s for new starting shortstop Cliff Pennington.

Arizona still made a few moves this offseason that could keep them in the division race this season. They signed veteran third baseman Eric Chavez, veteran right-hander Brandon McCarthy, outfielder Cody Ross and traded for veteran reliever Heath Bell.

Despite an injury that will keep him out for the first couple of weeks to start the season, Arizona fans should be excited about their new center fielder, Adam Eaton. Even after losing a player of Upton’s caliber, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the 2013 version of the Diamondbacks sneaks up on teams and makes some noise in the NL West.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The new-look Diamondbacks could be a lot better than people think, especially with this new group of hard-nosed ball players.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Dodgers can match up with this team from position-to-position on paper, but first need to put it all together on the diamond.

2012 Biggest contributor: Miguel Montero, .286 BA, 15 HRs, 88 RBIs.

2012 Biggest disappointment: Justin Upton, .280, 17 HRs, 67 RBIs.

2012 Biggest surprise: Wade Miley, 16-11, 3.33 ERA, 194-2/3 innings pitched.

Colorado Rockies
The Rockies were one of the most disappointing teams in baseball last season due to numerous injuries and one of the worst pitching rotations in baseball history. They ended last season with a four-man starting rotation and a league-worst 5.22 team ERA.

In 2012, Rockies starters went a combined 29-68 with an atrocious 5.81 ERA. That was only one of the problems, though. It didn’t help that one of the game’s top players, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, was injured for most of the season.

Colorado looks to completely turn the page on last season’s disaster, hiring first-year manager Walt Weiss to run the show.

It definitely doesn’t lack star power, with Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and a veteran Todd Helton featured in the middle of its lineup.

If the Rockies can fix up that pitching staff from last season, meaning fix up by leaps and bounds, then this Rockies team could be a threat in the NL West.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): A healthy Rockies lineup could give any team a headache.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): If the pitching staff is anything close to what it was last season then the 2013 Dodgers lineup will be feasting every time they take on Colorado, especially at Coors Field.

2012 Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, .303 BA, 22 HRs, 85 RBIs.

2012 Biggest disappointment: Todd Helton, .238 BA, seven HRs, 37 RBIs.
(It would have been an understatement to put the entire pitching staff right here.)

2012 Biggest surprise: Tyler Colvin, .290 BA, 18 HRs, 72 RBIs.

San Diego Padres
The Padres have new ownership entering this season. However, that’s probably not going to help them on the field right away. They finished in fourth place in the NL West with a 76-86 record last season, despite playing much better after the all-star break.

The one bright spot was Gold Glove winning third baseman Chase Headley, who hit .286 with 31 home runs and led the National League with 115 runs batted in.

Unfortunately, Headley will start the 2013 season on the disabled list after fracturing his thumb in a spring training game. The Padres will also be without starting catcher Yasmani Grandal to start the season because of a suspension for the first 50 games for testing positive for testosterone.

From the looks of it, it’s going to be an uphill climb for the Padres in the NL West in 2013.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): Injuries can happen to any team at any time, so the Dodgers just need to worry about staying healthy.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): Once again, the Dodgers could match up with almost every position with this team on paper, but you don’t win games on paper.

2012 Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, .286 BA, 31 HRs, 115 RBIs.

2012 Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, .243 BA, eight HRs, 45 RBIs.

2012 Biggest surprise: Huston Street, 2-1, 1.85 ERA, 23 saves, 39.0 innings pitched.

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Around the NL West: Shifting focus as the season nears an end

The Los Angeles Dodgers (76-71) might have shifted their focus over to the Wildcard race, now trailing the San Francisco Giants by 8.0 games in National League West division, with just 15 games remaining. This past weekend the Dodgers split a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals (77-70), who currently lead the second wild card spot by 1.0 game.

It was Dodgers journeyman Luis Cruz who quite possibly saved their season over the weekend with some crucial late game clutch hitting. However, the next six games for the Dodgers will determine their fate this season. They start a three game series on Tuesday with the Washington Nationals (89-57), which is the team that holds the best record in all of baseball. After that they will travel to Ohio to play the Cincinnati Reds (88-59), another first place team. This is without a doubt the toughest six games of the season so far, which could determine their 2012 playoff hopes.

San Francisco Giants – 84-63
The Giants are now 21 games over .500 and sit comfortably with a 8.0 game lead in the division. They basically buried the Dodgers a couple of weekends ago, winning two out of three games in a pivotal series at home.

Now, the Giants will play the rest of National League West division to finish off the season, with the last three games against the Dodgers. It shouldn’t be a problem for the Giants to wrap up the division before that final series against the Dodgers, considering all of the other teams they play have records below .500 and they play 10 of their last 16 games at home.

The Giants will start a four game series tonight at home against the Colorado Rockies.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The Dodgers might have missed their opportunity; it will be extremely difficult to fight off a 8.0 game deficit with just 15 games left in the season.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): If the Giants wrap up the division before the final series of the season against the Dodgers they might be resting their starters in a series that could be very important for a Dodgers team fighting for a final wild card spot.

Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, hitting .333 with 22 home runs and 93 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Can I just put Melky Cabrera in this spot for the remainder of the season?

Biggest surprise: Marco Scutaro, hitting .346 with two home runs and 31 RBIs in 47 games with the Giants.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 72-74
The Diamondbacks have been out of the division race for a while now, but they could be considered a long shot for the second Wildcard spot, trailing the Cardinals by 4.5 games. They will finish off their season playing 13 of their last 16 games against National League West teams, except the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks may already be looking ahead to the 2013 season because that Wildcard spot might be unrealistic with five teams ahead of them at the moment. The Diamondbacks will kick-off a three game series at home on Tuesday against the San Diego Padres.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): It’s hard to imagine the Diamondbacks being any kind of threat to the Dodgers for the rest of the 2012 season.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Diamondbacks can’t play spoiler in any way against the Dodgers for the rest of the season.

Biggest contributor: Jason Kubel, hitting .255 with 29 home runs and 86 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Chris Young, hitting .227 with 14 home runs and 39 RBIs in 94 games this season.

Biggest surprise: Wade Miley, in 26 starts has a 15-10 record with a 3.10 ERA.

San Diego Padres – 71-76
It would be pretty amazing if the Padres could finish at third place in the division after being one of the worst teams during the first half of the season. The Padres have been one of the toughest teams in baseball since the All-Star break, literally refusing to lose against the contenders. This team has become the ultimate spoiler and now no team wants to face them.

The Padres are 8-2 in their last 10 games and helped the Dodgers out a bit last week when they swept the Cardinals. They will play their final 12 out of 15 games against National League West teams, with three of those games next week against the Dodgers. The Padres will start a three game series on the road against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): That series against the Dodgers next week will be on the Padres radar, hoping to spoil one of their rivals chances at a postseason opportunity.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): On paper the Dodgers line up is much better than the Padres, but they will have to prove it during that three game series in San Diego next week.

Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, hitting .284 with 28 home runs and 104 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, hitting .248 with seven home runs and 43 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Logan Forsythe, hitting .297 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 79 games.

Colorado Rockies – 58-88
If it wasn’t for the Houston Astros (48-99) the Rockies would be in a battle for the worst record in baseball. This team is filled with talent, but injuries have definitely played a role during this atrocious season. When you lose a player of Troy Tulowitzki’s caliber, it’s hard to come back from that. That doesn’t put aside the horrid 5.15 team ERA that they have posted this season.

The Rockies will play 14 of their final 17 games against the National League West, three of those games coming on Sept. 28-30 at Dodger Stadium. The Rockies will start a four game series tonight against the Giants on the road.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): The later into the season you get, the more important these games become. So Sept. 28-30 should be crucial for the Dodgers. That series could end up being the highlight of the Rockies season if they can knock the Dodgers out of the wild card race.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): That 5.15 team ERA is the worst in all of baseball.

Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, hitting .308 with 22 home runs and 85 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: You should know that team ERA by now right?

Biggest surprise: Eric Young Jr., hitting .316 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 98 games.

Dodgers vs D’Backs Pre-Game: One Special Request

The Dodgers lost Game One of a short two-game series last night to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 1-0, which featured a pitcher’s duel between Ian Kennedy and Clayton Kershaw, but resulted in the Dodgers’ offense failing to come through once again.

The Dodgers have now lost five of their last six games, falling six games back in the division behind the first place San Francisco Giants.

Tonight’s pitching match-up is a rematch between Aaron Harang and Trevor Cahill, who faced each other a couple of weeks ago on Aug. 31 at Dodger Stadium, resulting in a no decision for both, but with the Diamondbacks going on to win that game 4-3.

Cahill is coming off of a win in his last start against the Giants, where he went 6.1 innings, allowing two hits, two runs, and striking out five. In 28 starts on the season, Cahill has a 10-11 record with a 3.98 ERA. The former All-Star from 2010 has enjoyed facing the Dodgers so far in his career, posting a 3-0 record and a 2.40 ERA against them.

On the other hand, Harang hasn’t won a game since August 18th against the Atlanta Braves. In his last two starts he hasn’t managed to pitch more than 5.0 innings in each of them. In three starts since his last victory, he is 0-1 with a 4.70 ERA. It hasn’t been easy for any Dodgers pitcher as of late, with the offense struggling to score runs on a nightly basis.

Harang is 9-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 27 starts this season. Throughout his 11 year career, the big right-hander is 3-7 with a 3.10 ERA against the Diamondbacks.

So who will come out with the victory in tonight’s rematch?

Los Angeles Dodgers (74-68) at Arizona Diamondbacks (70-72)
Aaron Harang (9-8, 3.75) vs. Trevor Cahill (10-11, 3.98)
Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
6:40 p.m. PST, September 12, 2012
TV: Prime Ticket
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (Spanish)
Game-Time Weather: 90 degrees, Mostly Sunny

Diamondbacks’ Projected Starters:
P: Trevor Cahill
C: Miguel Montero
1B: Paul Goldschmidt
2B: Aaron Hill
SS: John McDonald
3B: Chris Johnson
LF: Jason Kubel
CF: Adam Eaton
RF: Justin Upton

Key Bench Players: IF Jake Elmore, OF Gerardo Parra

Keys to a Dodger Victory:
SCORE SOME RUNS PLEASE. That’s all.

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.

Dodgers vs Diamondbacks Pre-Game: Searching for the Intensity

The Dodgers were shutout for the 12th time this season, and 5th time at home after losing 2-0 to the Diamondbacks last night.

Apparently, the Dodgers’ new offense went into hibernation after scoring 10 runs on Wednesday, failing to produce any against Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy.

While that was happening at Dodger Stadium, the Giants picked up another game on the Dodgers in the division, extending their lead to 4 1/2 games.

This team is struggling at the wrong time, so tonight will need to be the start of something positive.

It will be a match-up of two right-handers tonight at Dodger Stadium, with Aaron Harang opposing Trevor Cahill.

The Diamondbacks traded for Trevor Cahill this off-season hoping to get the All Star pitcher that he once was with the Oakland A’s in 2010, but have hardly gotten that, posting a 9-11 record with a 3.99 ERA in 26 starts.

The 26 starts have been huge for this Diamondbacks team, considering they’ve struggled to keep their pitchers healthy all season.

In his last time out against the Padres he only pitched 3.2 innings, his shortest outing of the season. In that short outing he allowed eight hits, four runs, three walks, with six strikeouts.

The last win for Cahill came on July 30th at Dodger Stadium.

He is also 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA lifetime against the Dodgers, which should give him some confidence going into tonight.

Aaron Harang has done his part this year so far as the back-end of the rotation guy, and will be trying to become the fourth Dodgers pitcher to win 10 games this season.

Harang is 9-8 with a 3.70 ERA in 25 starts going into the game tonight, coming off of a loss in his last outing against the Marlins, going 5.1 innings, allowing six hits, three runs, one walk, with four strikeouts.

However, in his last three starts he’s 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA.

Unlike Cahill, his career numbers against tonight’s opponent don’t favor him, as he holds a 3-7 record with an impressive 2.98 ERA against Arizona.

It looks like it will be up to the Dodgers offense to get a much-needed win tonight.

Arizona Diamondbacks (65-67) at Los Angeles Dodgers (70-62)
Trevor Cahill (9-11, 3.99) vs. Aaron Harang (9-8, 3.70)
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
7:10 p.m. PST, August 31, 2012
TV: Prime Ticket
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (Spanish)
Game-Time Weather: 79 degrees, Sunny
Promotions: Friday Night Fireworks

Diamondbacks’ Projected Starters:
P: Trevor Cahill
C: Miguel Montero
1B: Paul Goldschmidt
2B: Aaron Hill
SS: Jake Elmore
3B: Chris Johnson
LF: Jason Kubel
CF: Chris Young
RF: Justin Upton

Key Bench Players: IF Ryan Wheeler, OF Gerardo Parra

For more on the D’Backs, check out our pre-series report.

Keys to a Dodger Victory:
It’s quite simple, score some runs…

Around the West: Loss of Cabrera Has the Giants in Suspension

The battle for first place in the National League West is heating up during these dog days of summer. It’s the Dodgers and Giants who are constantly jumping one another for a slight division lead with no breathing room. The Dodgers currently hold just a half-game lead over the Giants with a 67-55 record.

It was an impressive 10-game road trip by the Dodgers that moved them into the top spot this week. They went 7-3 on the East Coast trip, winning all three series against the Marlins, Pirates, and Braves. The offense led the way during the trip, scoring five runs or more in eight out of the ten games. The Dodgers will have a huge opportunity this week to extend their lead as they welcome the Giants to Dodger Stadium for a three-game series starting tonight.

With just a half-game separating the two teams, the NL West standings will probably change a few different times this week. What will change more over the next month, NL West standings or Kim Kardashian’s boyfriend? (This could actually be a toss-up.)

San Francisco Giants – 66-55
Some terrible news for the Giants broke last week which could affect their season going forward. The fan favorite and 2012 all-star game MVP Melky Cabrera was suspended 50 games by the MLB after testing positive for high levels of testosterone, which is suggesting usage of performance-enhancing drugs. This is the second time this season that the Giants have lost a player to suspension. In May, Guillermo Mota was suspended 100 games for using performance-enhancing drugs, his second offense.

It will be interesting to see how the Giants do without Cabrera in their lineup. He was hitting .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs on the season and was a big reason for Giants success this season. Earlier in the week the Giants dropped two out of three games to the Nationals and lost the division lead. Then over the weekend they bounced back and won two out of three games at home against the Padres. Tonight will be the ultimate test when they start a three game series with the first place Dodgers, without the “Melkman”.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): Despite the loss of Melky Cabrera the Giants still have arguably the best starting rotation in baseball.

Reason to optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Giants offense was always the question mark for this ball club, but they have shocked a lot of people with their production this season. It will now be a concern once again as they will be without Cabrera for the rest of the season.

Biggest contributor: Buster Posey, hitting .330 with 19 home runs and 77 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Do I really have to write his name again? Melky! He let down his teammates, fans, and the entire organization.

Biggest surprise: Marco Scutaro, hitting .318 with two home runs and 18 RBIs.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 62-59
The Diamondbacks were catching the eye of lots of people after the All-Star break when they started creeping up in National League West race. This team is still in striking distance of first place, just 4.5 games back at the moment. They went out and picked up third baseman Chris Johnson at the trade deadline, which has been a terrific boost for them since the first time he put on the uniform.

The Diamondbacks are refusing to go away, as they have won their last four games. They swept the Astros over the weekend, which really isn’t saying much, but a win is always going into the win column. They will try to improve that winning streak when they start a three game series tonight at home against the Marlins.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): When a team is less than five games out of first place it always worries me. A month and a half still left to play and a 4.5 game lead could turn into a 0.5 game lead pretty quickly.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): The Diamondbacks haven’t found a way to stay consistent or healthy all year long, which could hurt them down the final stretch of the season.

Biggest contributor: Jason Kubel, hitting .275 with 25 home runs and 77 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Stephen Drew, hitting .193 with two home runs and 12 RBIs. He has only played in 40 games due to injuries, but he hasn’t been the same since his return.

Biggest surprise: Chris Johnson, hitting .246 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in 17 games.

San Diego Padres – 53-70
The Padres sit 14.5 games out of first place in the National League West. On the bright side they continue to sit out of last place in the division as well. Before a win yesterday afternoon against the Giants this team had lost five straight games. It’s been tough to watch for any Padres fan this year, but they still show up to play hard every day. They will start a three-game series tonight at home against the Pirates.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): This team could go out and beat the Dodgers in a crucial game late in the season to spoil a chance at the postseason.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): They have the worst team batting average in baseball at .238 on the season. The Dodgers pitchers will be happy to face this offense a few more times down the stretch.

Biggest contributor: Chase Headley, hitting .275 with 20 home runs and 76 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Cameron Maybin, hitting .219 with six home runs and 37 RBIs.

Biggest surprise: Yasmani Grandal, hitting .289 with five home runs, 15 RBIs, in 26 games since being called up.

Colorado Rockies 46-73
The Rockies are now 19.5 games back in the National League West. It’s been a devastating year for a Rockies team that came into the season with high expectations. The injuries piled up early on and the pitching never got better, which is the result of this miserable 2012 season. They actually won four games in a row before dropping two out of three games over the weekend to the Marlins.

The Rockies will start a four game series tonight against the Mets on the road.

Reason to be worried (as a Dodger fan): This team can flat-out hit, posting the second best in baseball .272 team batting average.

Reason to be optimistic (as a Dodger fan): From the second best team batting average to the worst team ERA in baseball at 5.41 on the season.

Biggest contributor: Carlos Gonzalez, hitting .320 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs.

Biggest disappointment: Jonathan Sanchez, in 3 starts is 0-3 with a 9.53 ERA.

Biggest surprise: Josh Rutledge, hitting.331 with six home runs, 22 RBIs, in 31 games this season.