This is the time of year when hyperbole matches reality. These two series--the next six games--against our chief foes and the two teams ahead of us are the do-or-die, make-or-break games of the year. No joke, no foolin', and we ain't bullshittin' about the cuisine neither. (Sorry, gratutitous Silver Streak reference.)
The LAtriners bring a strong offense to San Francisco--they are 5th in the NL in OPS (just ahead of St. Louis) and 3rd in the league in runs scored. They don't hit a lot of HRs, only 125 (12th), not too far from the Giants, who have 104 (15th). The Giants actually hit more doubles, 250 (7th) to 244 (11th). They are 4th in walks (516), however, while we are last (328).
Where they really shine is where we shine--pitching. They have the best ERA in the NL, just ahead of us. The first four teams in FIP are the Braves, Giants, Cardinals and Dodgers, separated by mere percentage points (3.63, 3.78, 3.81, 3.82). The LAtriners have allowed only 530 runs , just behind us (517) and just ahead of St. Louis (545). The Giants have scored 39 more runs than they've yielded. The Dodgers have score 139 more runs than they've yielded. That sort of balance has paid off--they've been in first place since April.
But not all is rosy in La-la land. At the Break, the Smoggers were cruising at 56-32, 7 up on the 2nd place Giants and 9 up on Colorado. They are 83-58 now, 6-1/2 up on the Giants, but the Crockies have surged into 2nd place, only 2-1/2 back. They've gone only 27-26 since those high-flying days. The Giants, of course, are 27-25 since the Break. Imagine what we could have done if we had a decent offense! Nonetheless, the team we are facing is not the same team from earlier this season--they are vulnerable, and they know the Crockies are breathing down their necks.
Tomorrow Matt Cain goes against Hiroki Kuroda. He's lost time to injury this year, but he's good, sporting a 3.59 FIP and 3.84 tRA. His issue is stamina, only 93 IP in 16 starts. If we can get him out of the game with some smart, patient approaches at the plate, I think the matchup with Cain favors us strongly. Matt gives us 7 quality IP almost every time, and our Affeldt/Romo-Wilson combo is deadly. Let's hope the boys are up to the task.