Urban: Giants on the brink versus D'backs

Urban: Giants on the brink versus D'backs
September 2, 2011, 5:24 am
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Sept. 1, 2011

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Mychael Urban
CSNBayArea.com

A week or so ago, a glance at the big-league landscape showed but two playoff races worth tracking with impassioned day-to-day interest.The National League West division chase was one of them, the American League West the other. Every other playoff spot -- Brewers in the NL Central, Phils in the NL East, Braves as NL Wild Card, Tigers in the AL Central, YankeesRed Sox somehow divvying up the AL East and Wild Card crowns -- appeared taken.Not much has changed in the races that appeared all but over, although the Indians -- 5 12 games back -- aren't quite ready to conceded to Detroit just yet, and the AL West race remains a taut tussle between Texas and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County Near the John Wayne Airport and Disneyland but Not Really Anywhere Close to Los Angeles.But suddenly, after another agonizing week of turmoil with the defending world champions, the NL West race could be on the verge of losing considerable steam in terms of national attention by weekend's end.
NEWS: Quiet day for Giants Thursday; no callups
The front-running Diamondbacks, six games to the good, roll their nine-game winning streak into AT&T Park on Friday for the opener of a three-game series against the Giants, and anything less than a sweep by the reigning champs might very well put San Francisco out of the misery it's been feeling since the dog days of August started biting them in the hind region.Sobering thought: Should the Giants, who last weekend lost two of four to the worst team in baseball (Astros) and this week dropped two of three to the team with the second-worst road record (Cubs), manage to take two of three from the streaking Snakes, they'll still enter play next Monday with a five-game deficit with 22 games to play.
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To overcome that, even a 16-6 pace the rest of the way from the Giants wouldn't be enough to force a tie were Arizona to finish up 12-10, and both of those marks would represent a dramatic departure from the current pace at which each team is playing.Still, there's optimism in the Giants' clubhouse."I don't feel we're out of it," veteran leader Mark DeRosa said Wednesday after a 4-0 victory over the Cubs that fellow vet Pat Burrell said was needed "in the worst way."Added DeRosa: "We're not going anywhere."A skeptic with a smart-aleck slant could, of course, agree with DeRosa wholeheartedly: You got that right, pal. You're not going anywhere but to a golf course in early October.But that's obviously not what DeRosa meant. He was highlighting the competitive fire that appeared to be stoked when the Giants shook up their roster and clubhouse Wednesday by cutting ties with Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada.DeRosa went out of his way to note that Rowand and Tejada weren't "cancers" in the clubhouse, but he did concede that "something had to be done," and that August had devolved into a Groundhog Day-ish procession of unsavory sameness.More of the same simply won't do against the Diamondbacks, who will be pitching AL All-Star Joe Saunders -- he's coming off one of his best starts of the season -- in Friday's opener, followed by their top two starters, Ian Kennedy (17-4, 3.03 ERA) and Daniel Hudson (14-9, 3.61), on Saturday and Sunday.The Giants counter with a trio of 2011 All-Stars, Matt Cain (10-9, 2.87), Tim Lincecum (12-11, 2.58) and Ryan Vogelsong (10-5, 2.63), each of whom has been hamstrung at various and many times by an offense that ranks 30th among 30 MLB teams in runs, 29th in batting average and on-base percentage, and 28th in slugging percentage."We still believe we can climb back into this thing," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "We dug ourselves a pretty good hole here but it's a gritty group. We'll keep fighting to the end."Barring a sweep, the end could be here sooner than anyone in Orange and Black wants to think.