Saturday, September 20, 2014

LA              88-66      ...                  Greinke, Kershaw come through as usual.
GIANTS     84-69    3 1/2  GB       Held to 3 hits by Padres' Despaigne.

Pittsburgh   83-70      1      GB       Closer to division top than are Giants.
Milwaukee 79-75     4 1/2 GB        One-time division leaders still reeling.

Giants lost at San Diego, 5-0.
LA defeated Chicago, 14-5, as Clayton Kershaw won his 20th game.
Pittsburgh defeated Milwaukee, 4-2.

Giants at San Diego; 5:40 PDT (8:40 EDT). Yusmeiro Petit against Andrew Cashner, who has not faced the Giants this year, but who is doing quite well despite a 4-7 record.
LA's at Chicago with Roberto Hernandez filling in for Hyun-Jin Ryu. C'mon, Cubbies!
Pittsburgh hosts Milwaukee again, with the chance to make the wild-card a two-team race.

Last Night's Game
We can bemoan Tim Hudson's wretched second half-- he's 2-10 since the break-- but when you only get three hits, you may not win even if you have Sandy Koufax out there. Still, for the second straight start, Hudson's first inning was a disaster-- four hits, one walk, four runs, and a most fortunate pickoff to end the thing-- and he had only one 1-2-3 frame before being yanked with one on and one out in the fifth. With the horse now safely down the road, Javier Lopez, Tim Lincecum, and George Kontos allowed only one baserunner the rest of the way, but with nobody but Joe (2-for-4) Panik able to hit, the point was moot.

The Races
As you can see, we've added the wild-card race to the division race above, a concession to reality if ever there was one.  Atlanta and Miami are still mathematically alive, but teams with losing records don't make even the B-List here. If Pittsburgh sweeps Milwaukee out of town this weekend, the only remaining drama will be whether either the Pirates or Giants can catch their respective division leaders, and which if the two will host the wild-card playoff if they don't. Pittsburgh trails the St Louis Cardinals by two and a half, so that race isn't over either.

LA did clinch a playoff spot yesterday, and reduced their "magic number" over the Giants to 6. Washington has long since clinched the NL East. Over in the American League, the "other" LA team, the Angels, are in the midst of one of the greatest stretch drives in memory. Remember how dominant the Oakland A's were all season? Well, 'long about August, the Angels began to play up to the level of their payroll, and the results are simply staggering: they wiped out a double-digit Oakland lead and now themselves lead by ten and a half games over Oakland and Seattle, who are fighting over the wild-card scraps with Detroit and Kansas City, the Central contenders (Detroit currently leads by one and one-half games). The Angels have a serious shot at 100 wins and will almost certainly hold the home-field advantage throughout the AL postseason grind. Baltimore is the third team to clinch; the AL East is so weak there's not even a wild-card contender among them.

Will Bruce Bochy swap one Tim for another? Several have been asking whether Tim Lincecum will replace the struggling Hudson in the Giants' rotation next time out, and "Boch" left the door open to the possibility when questioned. Timmy pitched two perfect innings last night... Angel Pagan left early with back tightness and Michael Morse came in late. Brandon Belt started at first and went 0-for-3...  LA has the same issue as the Giants at the moment-- thin starting pitching. Hernandez, today's starter at Wrigley, has been shelled worse than has Hudson through September. Sunday's starter may be Carlos Frias or somebody out of the bullpen (or maybe out of the stands), since Don Mattingly's preference is to hold Dan Haren back to open the Giants series at Dodger Stadium Monday. We'll see how Mattingly's resolve is tested if the Cubs beat 'em today and the Giants manage to gain a game... That LA opposes a southpaw, Felix Doubront, today is no comfort; they are 25-15 against lefties. The Giants, meanwhile, are 28-29; they've faced more southpaws than any other team in baseball, by a wide margin. Only Minnesota and Seattle have played as many as 50 games against left-handed starters; the Braves have played only 30.  Relax: Cashner, tonight's opposing starter, deals from starboard.

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