That grinding noise you’ll hear around Oracle Park beginning Tuesday will be the sound of the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers ratcheting up the tension as they seek the National League West title.
This is one of those years when the season’s 19 games between these storied antagonists don’t seem like enough. If they faced off against each other every day, they’d somehow remain capable of generating drama. Nobody’s complaining that only a few days have passed since these teams last met, with the Giants winning three of four riveting games at Chavez Ravine.
“This series showed a lot about our team,” said Giants first baseman-outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. “It shows we can play on both sides of the ball with the best of them.”
The Giants’ upcoming three-game clash against the Dodgers won’t settle anything, not with slightly more than two months left in the regular season. But the chance for either ballclub to gain even the slightest edge against the other intensifies the rivalry. This particular series is fraught with significance, since these contenders won’t confront one another again until Sept. 3-5 in San Francisco.
The Giants, who have led the division since May 31, conceivably possess home-field advantage for this week’s rematch. But remember that the Dodgers, who entered the weekend trailing San Francisco by three games, swept a three-game series at Oracle May 21-23.
It’s generally accepted as fact that the Dodgers, baseball’s reigning World Series champions, own significantly more talent than the Giants, who have employed much of their 40-man roster to contend with injuries. However, the Giants have resourcefully found various ways to win. Of their six victories at Los Angeles, three came in their last at-bat (including one in extra innings), one was a come-from-behind rout and another was a one-run decision.
Assuming the Dodgers and Giants occupy the division’s top two spots in some combination — remember, San Diego is also a serious contender — the second-place finisher likely will reach the postseason as a wild card qualifier. But neither team is considering that kind of assistance at this juncture.
Some factors to consider as the season approaches its crescendo:
The schedule: The Giants, for instance, have a potentially friendly finish awaiting them. They’ll play 20 of their last 32 games at home. Possible challenges on the road include a swing through the hot-weather cities of New York and Atlanta, from Aug. 24-29, along with a pair of three-game series at Colorado. Despite occupying fourth place in the NL West, the Rockies have played well above .500 at home.
The Dodgers’ itinerary is somewhat uneven. After visiting the Phillies and Mets Aug. 10-15, they’ll play 13 of their following 16 games at home. But then comes a 22-game span in which 16 games are on the road. Los Angeles finishes the regular season with a six-game homestand against San Diego and Milwaukee.
Health: The Giants hope that they’ll receive a boost before the season ends from their quartet of sidelined veterans: All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford (strained oblique), utilityman Tommy LaStella (knee), third baseman Evan Longoria (shoulder) and first baseman Brandon Belt (knee).
The Dodgers also have their share of ailing performers, including outfielder Mookie Betts (hip), left-hander Clayton Kershaw (forearm), second baseman Gavin Lux (hamstring), shortstop Corey Seager (hand) and right-handers Jimmy Nelson (back) and Scott Alexander (shoulder).
The trade deadline: Championships have been won and lost through the years by a contender’s ability to upgrade its roster. The Dodgers haven’t been linked to any major deals as the July 30 deadline nears. The Giants are said to be pursuing a set-up reliever.