Second Best Rivalry in Baseball Heats Up!
Everyone and their mother knows that the best rivalry in baseball is the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. However, in a year that the BoSox are awful, the true baseball fan who craves a deep-rooted rivalry needs to look a little further. Thankfully, the second best rivalry in the sport is just getting heated up and looks to be one that will surely come down to the wire. The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in the hottest contended divisional race in the sport, further enhanced by the fact that these teams have a history that dates back as far as the game itself.
The Dodgers and Giants are huge parts of one another’s past. Both teams were founded in New York City, leaving for the West Coast the same exact year. Each team has featured Hall-of-Fame players throughout the years, as players like Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese have made Dodger fans proud while Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Barry Bonds have done the same for the Giants. Each team has won 21 pennants and 6 World Series titles. These teams have been part of some of the best moments in baseball history, such as Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”. Fans on both coasts have long argued about which team was superior, whether the debates were Brooklyn vs. Queens or L.A. vs. San Francisco. Just a year ago, a Giants fan was brutally beaten in a parking lot leaving Dodgers stadium and left in a coma, illustrating the tenacity and bitterness these fan bases still feel towards one another.
Heading into tonight’s games, the two teams sat tied atop the National League West standings. The Dodgers beat the Pirates 11-0 tonight, and currently the Giants are holding a lead against the Nats, so it looks like the stalemate will continue into tomorrow. The path these two teams have taken to get here mirror one another this year. Both teams are built on pitching. The Dodgers are second in the NL with a 3.35 ERA; the Giants are 4th with a 3.66. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has pitched to a 2.88 ERA, but San Fran’s Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain have matched him all the way. While the Dodgers feature 4 starting pitchers who are sporting ERA’s under 4.00 (Kershaw, Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang), the Giants have 3 who are under 3.08 (Vogelsong, Cain, Madison Bumgarner). Both teams are a little weak in the bullpen, though the Dodgers may have discovered a gem in closer Kenley Jansen who has a 0.90 ERA since July. Both teams rely on their starting arms and will have to continue to do so from here on out.
Offensively, both teams have many holes in their lineups and are mainly carried by a few stars. Matt Kemp is capable of carrying the entire Dodger team on his back at times, while L.A. is hopeful the newly acquired Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino can help carry some of the load heading down the stretch. Andre Ethier started off the season really hot, but injuries have slowed him down as the year has gone by. On the other hand, the Giants feature two players who are on a short list on MVP candidates. Buster Posey (.332, 19 HR, 76 RBI) and Melky Cabrera (.347, 11 HR, 60 RBI) have led the Giants all season long. Like the Dodgers, the Giants made a trade deadline deal to bolster their offense, bringing in Hunter Pence to take some pressure off the Giants leading men. They are also hopeful getting All-Star 3B Pablo Sandoval off the DL will help the lineup produce. Either way, both teams find themselves in the bottom of the NL in batting average, HR’s and SLG% and the team thats offense can produce a little in September will have a great shot of taking this division.
At different times of the season, it has appeared that either team was more than capable of putting the other away, however we find that through 117 games, they have played at the exact same clip. If you look at their remaining schedules, the Giants play softer teams like the Cubs, Astros and Padres (3 times). The Dodgers play a bit harder schedule that includes the Nationals, Cardinals and Reds. The teams play each other another 6 times, but I can see them splitting those down the middle. The Giants best pitcher in the past few years, Tim Lincecum has struggled all season long, pitching to a 5.35 ERA. However, he appears to be getting his act together just in time, having thrown 5 quality starts in his last 6 outings. For these two reasons, I think the Giants will barely pull this division out and be prepared for a nice postseason run. The Dodgers will have a shot at the Wild Card if either the Pirates or Braves fall off a little bit, but they can’t be focusing on that at the present time. Either of these teams have a realistic shot at the NL West crown and want nothing more than beating the other to get there. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!