Black and orange vs. blue and white. Jon Miller vs. Vin Scully. The Cha Cha Bowl vs. the Dodger Dog. Fog vs. smog.
Baseball in the Bay Area has a different edge to it when the Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are battling into September.
But in recent years, the rivalry has fizzled a bit. For a rivalry to thrive, you need two clubs that both have something on the line, and that simply hasn’t been the case.
It’s been since 2004 — does Steve Finley’s walk-off grand slam ring a bell? — that the Dodgers and Giants have finished 1-2 in the NL West.
In between then and now, both clubs have had individual runs of success — the Dodgers with back-to-back division titles in 2008 and ’09, and the Giants with their World Series title in 2010. But not simultaneously.
As the clubs wrap up their pivotal three-game series in SoCal today, it’s becoming clear that the NL West is going to be a two-team race that could very well come down to the final series of the season. Neither team appears poised to rip off a 10-2 run to create some separation atop the NL West. Each has its moments of brilliance, followed by moments of ineptitude.
And while the Arizona Diamondbacks are still hanging around in the background, every time they start to inch closer, they go in the tank for four to five days. They’ve lost the mojo from their 2011 run to the playoffs.
Monday’s 2-1 victory to kick off the Dodgers series, the most-watched regular-season Giants game since 2010 on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, was a statement game for San Francisco. It came fresh off the latest revelation involving the suspension of Melky Cabrera and his attempt to cover up his use of a performance-enhancing drug.
Many pundits were quick to write off the Giants as soon as the Cabrera suspension was announced.
San Francisco needed to show MLB, and Los Angeles in particular, that it wasn’t down for the count. And backed by one of Madison Bumgarner’s best regular-season performances of his career, the Giants did just that.
The game turned into one of those grind-it-out, agonizingly close wins Giants fans have come to love and hate over the past few seasons.
Tuesday’s win followed suit as the Giants surged to a 1½ game lead behind a stellar start from Tim Lincecum.
The schedule down the stretch favors the Giants. Along with the common NL West foes, San Francisco faces the Atlanta Braves and the bottom-feeding Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. On the other hand, Los Angeles will take on the Miami Marlins and a pair of division leaders in the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds.
While those games will all matter in the end, they’ll pale in comparison to the remaining Giants-Dodgers matchups.
The boys in black are back. The boys in blue are back. And it’s about time.
Dylan Kruse is the sports editor of The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @dkruse16.