By Mike Corasaniti
Some consider it the greatest baseball rivalry of all time, even better than that small time Boston-New York thing on the east coast. The two franchises have met an astonishing 2,394 times in their 125-year history, with countless pennant races, division titles, and bragging rights on the line. Even more astonishingly so though, the two franchises have only met in what we now consider to be baseball’s postseason only once: The 1889 World Series, when the then Brooklyn Bridgegrooms defeated the then New York Giants.
Since then, both teams have had long and successful franchise runs while running into the other on every so often. The Dodgers have won six World Series titles (The first of which in Brooklyn) while the Giants have won seven of their own (With only the last two coming in San Francisco). But with both teams once again battling it out for an NL West title, are both teams once again standing in each other’s way of further lining their trophy cases?
A Word on the Dodgers
Los Angeles has one of the best, and highly publicized, problems in the entire league: When Carl Crawford returns from injury, they will have too many outfielders.
Yasiel Puig has only continued to cement himself as one of the best players in the game in right field, Andre Ethier has stayed consistent at the plate and wherever head coach Don Mattingly puts him, and Matt Kemp’s .350 June batting average is making it very hard to think about taking him out of the lineup. But whatever the Dodgers end up doing to shift things around, these three have been a lynchpin behind the Dodgers finally rediscovering what made them so successful in their 92-win campaign last season.
And if these are the things that the Dodgers have to “worry” about in their lineup then they are going to be in pretty good shape, especially considering their starting rotation. Zach Greinke is striking out batters left and right, L.A.’s bullpen is closing out as many games as the best of them, and can you name another team that has thrown two no-hitters this season?
With Clayton Kershaw leading the way and veteran Josh Beckett rounding things out, their rotation is one of the best and hottest right now.
Their current losing streak and 2013 downturn aside, the Giants have been one of the more consistent teams under head coach Bruce Bochy. Their last two NL West and World Series titles came under Bochy, and his team’s four-game division lead – the second highest in the majors – certainly isn’t a bad sign of things to come.
Their pitching staff has had a rough week and then some, but it’s still near the top of the league in team WHIP, opponent’s batting average, and ERA. Thank Madison Bumgarner and the 38-year-old Tim Hudson for keeping the Giants in as many games as they have so far this season, as well as the still-excellent Sergio Romo and his 20 saves through mid-June.
San Francisco’s lineup has still been strong recently as well, which makes their recent skid all the more frustrating. With players like Angel Pagan hitting above .300 and Michael Morse driving in as many runs as he’s been doing, it’s only a matter of time before the Giants start to figure it out again.
What makes a playoff prediction between these two teams so difficult is their current contrasting trends. San Francisco, who was baseball’s hottest team by far through the month of May, has showed its pedestrian potential since sweeping the Mets on June 8 while Los Angeles is taking advantage by chipping away at their division deficit as much as it can.
Granted, the Giants are allowed to have a bad stretch, especially considering the 42-21 record they boasted when it began. But how they eventually come out of it will prove whether or not they can handle a young and fully loaded team in the postseason like the 2014 Dodgers. Los Angeles has also proved that it’s current lineup and rotation can handle a postseason series, taking only four games to defeat the very strong Atlanta Braves in the 2013 NLDS.
So is this make-believe postseason matchup a pure coin flip at the moment? Maybe. But if it is, you have to favor the team that’s hot, has the better pitching staff, and has shown more recently it can do a little damage in October, and right now that team is Los Angeles. Dodgers 3-2