The battle for first place: Dodgers-Giants preview
By Jon Weisman
So, did you hear the Giants are coming to town?
Though we’re more than a month removed from the All-Star Break and more than 75 percent through the 2016 regular season, tonight marks the start of the second half of Dodgers-Giants 2016: nine games, split over three series, across the next 30 days.
Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com, Phil Rogers of MLB.com and Sarah Langs and Mark Simon of ESPN.com have put together a pretty good collection of trends leading into this week’s series, to which I’ll add these items:
Madison Bumgarner: The Giants’ ace, who starts tonight, hasn’t exactly been unhittable since the All-Star Break, allowing four earned runs in three of his seven starts, including five days ago (in five innings) against the Mets. His ERA is 3.13 in that stretch, averaging 6.6 innings per start. He’s also gotten mixed support from the bullpen and offense, so that San Francisco has won only two out of the seven games.
Madison Bumgarner, hitter: Perhaps the most feared pitcher-batsman in the land, Bumgarner hit his third homer of the season last week, giving him six extra-base hits to go with his six singles and, perhaps most ridiculously given his .179 batting average, eight walks. Keep in mind that Bumgarner has struck out in 42 percent of his plate appearances this year – the Dodgers should pitch him smart but not scared.
Johnny Cueto: Wednesday’s starting pitcher had a 5.59 ERA in his first three starts this month, although he had struck 19 in 19 1/3 innings while walking three. Somewhat weirdly, he had his best outing of August last week against the Mets — seven innings, one run — despite striking out only two.
Matt Moore: Acquired from Tampa Bay at the non-waiver trade deadline, Moore had nearly identical (and wild) results in his first two starts: six innings, three hits, two runs and seven strikeouts, walking six in the first, five in the second. Since then, he has allowed eight runs in 11 innings, giving him a 4.70 ERA as a Giant with 34 baserunners in 23 innings. Moore will be the second lefty in the series to go against the Dodgers, whose OPS against southpaws (.657) is more than 100 points lower than northpaws (.764).
San Francisco offense: Since the All-Star Break, the Giants have two regulars with an OPS above .800: Angel Pagan (.865) and Denard Span (.808). On the cold side are Joe Panik (.604) and Hunter Pence (.594).
Head to head: Over the past two seasons of this rivalry, the Giants won the head-to-head series in the first half, then lost in the second half.
- 2014: Dodgers started 3-7, then 7-2.
- 2015: Dodgers started 2-7, then 6-4.
- 2016: Dodgers started 4-6, then …
One-run games: The Dodgers past three losses to San Francisco this year have been by one run. In 2015, when the Dodgers swept an August 31-September 2 series against the Giants, Los Angeles won all three games by one run.
Lead changes: Out of 10 Dodger-Giant games this season, six have seen the lead change hands. Two others were tied up mid-game.
Walkoffs and extra innings: San Francisco has two walkoff wins this year against Los Angeles, both in the 10th inning (April 8 and June 11). For their part, the Dodgers won a 10-inning game April 9 in San Francisco, after trailing 2-1 entering the top of the ninth.
Top Dodger pitchers against San Francisco: Hard to beat Ross Stripling, who allowed no hits and four walks among the 25 batters he faced. Then there’s Clayton Kershaw (2.35 ERA in 23 innings), who allowed three home runs (one to Bumgarner) but struck out 24 while walking one. But among those guaranteed to pitch in this series, there’s tonight’s starter, Kenta Maeda, who allowed one run on seven baserunners in seven innings with seven strikeouts April 17.
Top Dodger hitters against San Francisco: The Dodger offense was still in the process of kicking in during the first-half games against the Giants, but Joc Pederson has hit three homers in 33 plate appearances, with a .959 OPS.