LOS ANGELES Well, you can say one thing about the lastthree rivalry series between the Dodgers and Giants:
Hardware stores have done a brisk business in the broomaisle.
Have you ever seen a trio of three-game series like these?
In June, the Giants took advantage of the Dodgers without Matt Kemp anddominated them while sweeping three games at AT&T Park by a combined scoreof 13-0.
The Giants were the class of the NL West.
A month later, with Kemp and new addition Hanley Ramirez inthe fold, the Dodgers went back to San Francisco returned the favor whilesweeping three by a combined score of 19-3. The Giants were the down-and-outclub in that series, having just put Pablo Sandoval back on the DL. They hadntyet traded for Hunter Pence, either.
The Dodgers were the class of the NL West.
The Giants figured to be back in the prone position as theyarrived at Dodger Stadum on Monday, having just lost Melky Cabrera, the majorleague hits and runs leader, to a season-ending drug suspension.
Instead, it went the other way so much so that the Giantseven managed to pull off a three-game sweep in Chavez Ravine on Wednesdaywithout Cabrera and Buster Posey in the lineup.
Entering this series, I felt these three games would giveeveryone a clearer indication of how these two teams really stack up. One clubor the other would stamp itself the true team to beat in the division.
The Giants cast themselves in that role. They did it in themanner they must, with Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain combiningfor a 3-0 record, 0.87 ERA and 19 strikeouts against one walk in 20 23innings. And the Giants huddled around unexpected heat sources in Angel Pagan,Marco Scutaro and Joaquin Arias.
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But the postgame clubhouse, while jovial, did not includeany chest puffing. There were no comments to the effect of, We gave them whatthey deserved or We showed were the better club, or even, Were the teamto beat.
This season series has seen two many wild swings, and toomany brooms in both black and blue hues. Anything could happen in the six gamesremaining between these two clubs including three Oct. 1-3 at Dodger Stadiumto end the regular season.
Will it come down to that series?
Yeah, it more than likely will, Cain said. I read where(Clayton) Kershaw said the same thing. Youd like to run away, but it more thanlikely will come down to that final series if both teams continue to playwell.
I asked Tim Lincecum if he could remember the last time the Giants swept three games at Dodger Stadium.
"No, I can't," he said.
I expected that answer. Because it hadn't happened since April 26, 2007 -- exactly 10 days before Lincecum made his major league debut.
Bochy likes what hes seeing from Arias, who is hammeringleft-handers but also hit two doubles against right-handed relievers inWednesday.
Arias got a load of at-bats on thetrip because the Giants faced four lefties in a five-game span.
Great trip for Joaquin, Bochy said. Hes gotten moreaggressive. Hes letting the bat go and hes playing good defense, too. Hesswinging with authority and hes got some pop, as he showed tonight.
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The Giants will face one lefty (Mike Minor on Saturday) inthe upcoming four-game series against the Braves. Its not like Brandon Crawford is slumping, either. Heshitting .400 over his last 11 games and his defense is first-rate.
But I wonder if Bochy will try tofind a way to get Arias in there against some of the right-handers, too.
One option could be to play Arias at third base and moveSandoval to first, but that probably wont happen as long as Pablos hamstringis still tender.
Both Arias and Sandoval made remarkable plays behind Cain.Arias was the most impressive because he had to heave it as his momentum wasgoing away from first base, and Shane Victorino is not somebody who loafs itdown the line.
I try to make every play, Arias said, through interpreterSergio Romo. That one just turned out to be a little nicer.
Romo found himself trailing off a couple times when tryingto put Arias words in English. So it was suggested he tie up the final answerwith his trademark, Thats whats up catchphrase.
Yeah, Romo said. Thats whats up!
In this space 24 hours ago, I suggested its not time topanic about Hunter Pence. Well, after watching him go 0 for 3 with two strikeoutsand a pop up Wednesday to finish an 0-for-11 series at Dodger Stadiumit might be time to revise that assessment.
Pence was so out of sorts that Vin Scully went on forseveral minutes about it. All else being equal, Pence looks ready for a dayoff. But the Giants are so stretched in the outfield already. Its more likelythat Pence will just have to make an adjustment on the fly.
Pence is hitting .193 as a Giant but his slump dates backquite a bit longer. Hes got a .188 average in 37 games beginning July 8.
You never want to take your at-bats into the field, or viceversa. But you have to believe that Justin Christians amazing catch in theseventh inning provided a huge personal lift.
Christian is hitlessin his last 18 at-bats over 11 games.
Yeah, itsfrustrating, said Christian, who could find himself back in the minors soon ifthe Giants acquire a right-handed hitting upgrade in left field. Im a betterplayer than whats been happening on the hitting side, but defense is somethingthats easier to control. The hitting comes and goes. Its been a tough spotfor me, but you take the at-bats when they come and do the best you can. Youvegot to stay positive.
The catch was a positive in every way.
I was going to try to play it off the wall, saidChristian, who ran out of grass as he made a full-extension dive in the leftfield corner. As I continued to run, I realized I was getting a lot closerthan I thought. I took a chance at trying to make a play.
There was just one problem. Christian extended out so farwith his glove hand that his wrist hit the ground first. It was swollen and theGiants wont know the extent of the injury until Thursday. It might even putChristian on the disabled list, which could be the avenue that gets Xavier Nadyto the big leagues.
I jammed it pretty good, Christian said. I hope itsnothing major.
Cain was asked (hopefully in jest): Has a better catch everbeen made behind him?
Uhmmm this one guy made one pretty good one for me, saidCain, who might name his first-born son Gregor Blanco Cain after the man whosaved his perfect game. He made two, actually.
But that ones up there. I cant lie, because it was fullspeed. Everything was perfect on that catch.
And it helped preserve a near-perfect road trip.