Game 1: Beckett vs. Lincecum
Josh Beckett: Beckett may not be the pitcher he was a few years ago, but he proved in his last start that he was no throw-in to the blockbuster trade with the Red Sox. He struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings while allowing just one run against Arizona.
Tim Lincecum: Lincecum has been more consistent in the second half and has been effective against the Dodgers this season. He is 5-4 with a 3.26 ERA since the All-Star break, and also has a 2-1 record with a 2.55 ERA in three starts this season vs. the Dodgers.This is the marquee game of the series. Two former Cy Young-caliber pitchers with something to prove after a disappointing season thus far for both of them. Both have something to prove in this start, and this being the first game of the series, is pivotal for winning the series. Particularly for the Giants since Zito is facing Kershaw in the third game.
Beckett has a 2.70 ERA in 3 starts in SF, but that was a baseball generation ago, when he was with Florida, from 2002 to 2005. He had a 3.98 ERA at his home back then too. It has been 7 years since he faced the Giants. Huff, Scutaro, Pence, Arias, and Pagan are the only ones to have a history, and most from the past most likely: Huff .695 OPS in 40 PA, one homer; Scutaro 1.007 OPS in 13 PA; Pence .909 OPS (5 singles in 11 AB) in 11 PA; Arias .650 OPS in 5 PA/4 AB; Pagan .000 in 4 AB. And he is a RHP, against which the Giants have not had much success this season.
Lincecum has a 2.05 ERA against the D-gers in AT&T and a 4-1 record there in 8 starts. 62 K's vs. 17 walks for a stellar 3.65 ratio (want at last 2.4) and 9.8 K/9. He has owned most of them, but Ethier (.300/.378/.525/.903 in 45 PA/40 AB), Rivera (.444/.474/.500/.974 in 19 PA/18 AB), and Hanley (.273/.273/.636/.909 in 11 PA/AB) have owned him.
Of course, much of that was before, when he was two-time Cy Young winner Big Time Timmy Jim, not 2012 Tim with a 5.21 ERA. He does have two straight DOM starts, so there is some hope. Beckett also had a DOM start in his last outing (first was in Colorado and wasn't that bad considering). Can't really call this game either way, other than as a coin flip. You can make an argument for either side.
The most pertinent stat is probably this: LA has hit .269/.323/.413/.735 in their last 28 days, with Hanley, Cruz, Ethier, and Kennedy hot (Kemp has not been hitting that well, neither has A-Gon, Rivera, or Victorino), while the Giants have hit .279/.337/.405/.742 in their last 28 days, with Nady, Arias, Belt, Posey, Pagan, Crawford, Pence, and Scutaro as their hot to OK hitters. Both teams have been pretty much even, but while the Giants have had contributions from a lot of players, LA has been dependent on a few players. So I think that plus playing at home gives the Giants a slight edge here, but not one to bet on, as both pitchers are still enigmas, so both teams seem very even for this game.
But as we'll see, we need Lincecum to make a statement start here and win the game for us, to start the series on a good note, plus because we need this win if we are to have any hope of winning this series.
Game on! Go Giants! Beat LA!
Game 2: Capuano vs. Cain
Chris Capuano: Capuano's numbers have considerably decreased since starting the season 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA. The lefty wants to end the season on a high note with better execution and limited mistakes like the two homers he gave up in his last start.
Matt Cain: The Giants pulled off 7-5 comeback against the Cubs after Cain allowed five runs in five innings last Sunday. It was just the fourth time this season Cain failed to go at least six innings, with three of those starts coming in the past five weeks.The Giants have mostly had their way with him in AT&T during this career, though he had a nice DOM start in 2011. 5.32 ERA in 5 games/3 starts, but .296 BABIP (he doesn't strike out that many, plus gave up a lot of homers, so maybe that is where he is unlucky). Lots of Giants hitters have done well against him: Nady .735 OPS, Huff 1.303 (maybe his first start? though it sounds unlikely from what I've read, they said his role is PHing), Scutaro 1.181, Sandoval 1.405, Posey 1.250, and Arias has a homer against him (Scutaro and after had less than 10 PA).
Cain has a 3.83 ERA against LA in 11 starts in AT&T. But he has done a whole lot better against them in recent seasons, with a 2.50 ERA overall from 2010 to 2012, and 41 K/8 BB (5.1 K/BB), in 8 starts. Cain had pretty much owned LA hitters but they just acquired one of the guys who own Matt: A-Gon. He has a .321/.391/.643/1.033 batting line in 64 PA/56 AB and 4 HRs. Ethier also owns Matt, with a .472/.492/.566/1.058 batting line in 59 PA/53 AB. And while they haven't hit well, both Kemp (.654 OPS) and Hanley (.762 OPS) can be dangerous (Kemp has 5 XBH in 10 career hits). Ellis the Catcher has also done well in limited AB (6), .500/.500/.667/1.167.
Cain should do well and give the Giants a good chance to win this game. This is probably our best bet for a win, given this matchup. Cain will need to minimize damage by getting keeping the bases empty before reaching their middle lineup. The one good news is that A-Gon has not hit that well with LA, especially after his nice start in his first two games, .244/.304/.317/.621 since, but however, in his last four games, 7 for 17 with 3 doubles, so it looks like he's starting to break out. Because he's the wild card here, I am not as certain the Giants will win, but still, this is probably our highest probability game here, solely because of Capuano.
Game 3: Kershaw vs. Zito
Clayton Kershaw: Kershaw continues to pitch as well as the Dodgers expect him to, but he keeps coming away empty-handed. On Tuesday, he left with a no-decision despite throwing seven innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts against the Padres.
Barry Zito: The Giants have now won the past six starts Zito has taken the mound, though he has just factored in the decision just twice in that stretch. Zito pitched into the fifth against Arizona his last time out, getting charged with four runs.Talk about David vs. Goliath. Or sending a pea-shooter up against an Uzi. Lincecum was unable to take down Kershaw last season, so what hope does a Zito who is pretty much at the low point of his season after that last start?
No need to cover Kershaw, he has owned the Giants during this career, no wonder they skipped Blanton in the rotation in order to have Clayton face us. But just for completeness, he has a 0.66 ERA in 7 starts (8 games), 8.7 K/9 plus 4.42 K/BB, dominance. I was hoping that maybe Pence could be a wild card, but no: 1 for 21, .095 OPS. Ah, our only hope: Marco Scutaro, .571/.571/.571/1.143 in 8 PA/7 AB, 4 singles, no strikeouts. Also, Pagan .300/.300/.350/.650 in 20 PA/AB. Only Pill and Nady have a homer against him among the Giants.
Zito has been horrible for about a month now. He's always good for such a stretch, just as he's good for a stellar stretch as well, and bundled together, you have a roughly average, sometimes better than average, pitcher.
He has a roughly 3.90 ERA whether at home or road against the D-gers in his career. That alone says that we don't have much of a chance. He doesn't even own A-Gon, who has a .317/.440/.415/.855 batting line against him, which is at least not stellar, that's a consolation but not much of one. Kemp owns Zito (.462/.533/.692/1.226 in 60 PA) but Zito owns Ethier (.158/.327/.184/.511). Nobody else on the team has hit him though, so that's the silver lining, he needs to keep the bases empty for the big boys. Ellis the catcher has also done well, as well as Cruz, in limited ABs, so there is that too. And while he has kept down Victorino, Shane has a .385 OBP against Zito.
How for the love of God can we win this one? Basically Bochy would have a short leash again and take him out before too much damage can be done. But even by then, it's probably too late, I mean, Kershaw has a 0.66 ERA!
It will be very hard for the Giants to win this series. They basically need to win the first two games, as the third game looks as likely as General Custer winning in a military simulation. Or Zito would have to complain about some physical ailment that would conveniently push him back a start or a day, thus allowing Vogelsong, who has battled Kershaw well previously, from what I recall, to start on Sunday.
Cain looks likely to win the second game (not as lopsided as game 3, but looks good in setup), so the first game is the pivotal game at the moment. Which Beckett will show up? Which Lincecum? It's anybody's guess. My guess is that both will have relatively good games, maybe even a DOM start. Not a lot of runs should score, but this season, anything goes for both, so someone could have a DIS start. I'm feeling better about Lincecum, so I'm very hopeful of a DOM start, but Hanley is a wild card in this one, A-Gon too. It will be an interesting game (as in that old Chinese proverb, well, curse really: may you have interesting times). The Timmy of old relished challenge games like this, but the 2012 Tim loses it when runners get on base.
The key probably is how our pitchers handle their big guns - Kemp, A-Gon, Hanley, Ethier - and just as importantly, the guys ahead of them (I know, pretty obvious). Kemp has been in an awful slump since banging his shoulder against the wall and sitting out a game or two. He has batted .120/.185/.240/.425 since then. We need to keep that slump going. Because A-Gon is heating up - only a matter of time before his power kicks in, plus he has a .297/.371/.462/.832 batting line in SF, with 6 HR in 182 AB. Hanley has done well for LA since joining, particularly once he took over SS again, hitting .291/.345/.559/.904 since taking over the starting SS role, with 9 HR in 127 AB, and 29 RBI in 32 games. And Ethier has been hot, hitting .333/.385/.708/1.093 in the past week. The key is that nobody else has been hitting this past week, other than Ethier, Hanley, and Cruz, and the Giants pitchers just need to keep the bases empty for the big boys.
Time is Running Out for LA
Also, the Giants need to realize that we really only need to win one game of the three. So hopefully they are loose and relaxed. If we can win one game, we leave the series still 3.5 games ahead of the D-gers. LA desperately needs to sweep us because that would put them only 1.5 games behind and set the stage nicely for them for the rest of the season, as they then have 3 at home with us to end the season. So the pressure is all on them, they need to win each and every game to get back squarely into the NL West Division Title race.
One Giants win and they are 3.5 games back with 21 games left to play. If the Giants finish just 11-11, the D-gers need to go 14-7 against D-backs, St. Louis, Washington, Cincinnati, San Diego, Colorado and SF, and 11 of those 21 are on the road (AZ. WSN, CIN, SD) and they have a four game series against St. Louis in LA. Though I should note that they actually have winning records overall against NL East and Central, they are just failing against NL West teams, D-backs and Giants in particularly, but Colorado has played them tough as well.
Obviously, it would be that much worse for LA if the Giants won the series, that would shut the coffin on their hopes for the division title pretty tightly. Winning just one game leaves them 5.5 games behind and winning none leaves them 7.5 games behind. The Giants winning the series pretty much gives them a deathgrip on the division title, SF would have to have a classic collapse then for LA to win.
Not that that isn't impossible, we can't have the starting pitchers continue this horrible streak of performances for much longer without suffering great consequences. Losing teams or not, each team wants to knock the Giants out and hurt our chances of making the playoffs. Our starters need to get themselves straightened out, starting with Lincecum in his start on Friday.
At least win one, Giants. The second game looks good for that, plus Capuano is a LHP and the Giants are 30-14 against LHP. And it is not out of the question for game one too, it is just that it is too hard to call right now because both pitchers have had uncharacteristic seasons. Just be relax and play your game and we should come out with at least one win in this series, if not more.
Go Giants! Beat LA!