SAN FRANCISCO This is how Giants manager Bruce Bochyassessed the state of the NL West:
This is going to be a tight race, he said. In lateSeptember, well know whos going to win this division.
Or early October. The Giants end the regular season withthree games at Dodger Stadium Oct. 1-3.
Bochys other assessment after the Dodgers pulled within agame after sideswiping his club in a 10-0 victory Saturday:
Right now, were not doing a lot right.
No fact checking required there. The Dodgers have a healthyMatt Kemp and an apparently motivated Hanley Ramirez, which is a chillingcombination. Meanwhile, the Giants have struggled to lengthen their lineup allseason. And now that Pablo Sandoval is out of the picture for two weeks, theylook as short as the Lollipop Guild.
Entering Saturdays game, the Giants ranked 27th in the majors with a .637 OPS from their No.7 hitters. Their No.8 hitters had a .561 OPS, which ranked 29th. And as much as we believe in Matt Cains power potential, it isnt often that the pitchers spot will turn over a lineup.
Add their problems with run production a .188 average withtwo outs and runners in scoring position, just seven home runs from their firstbasemen, an icy second half from Angel Pagan in the Nos. 5-6 spots and thelineup appears several noisemakers short of a party as the pennant stretchapproaches.
And yet, the Giants were 9-3 before losing two to theirarchrivals. And Fridays loss came in extra innings. So the burn always feelsthe worst immediately after a spanking.
Weve seen the Giants manhandle an undermanned Dodgers rosterhere in June in historic fashion while throwing three shutouts. Now weve seenthe Dodgers return the favor, with Kemp and Ramirez living the lo viste loca.
So wheres the truth? Somewhere in the middle? Where dothese teams stack up, when both are healthy? How do you begin to handicap thesefinal nine games?
RATTO: The Giants-Dodgers pennant race is really on now
I think were pretty evenly matched when were all at fullcylinders, said Barry Zito, who mostly pitched well despite allowing fourearned runs in 5 13 innings. Were just excited for this to come down to thewire here. Thats what its all about.
I feel like we have to step it up because we have to stepit up. Its not because the Dodgers did anything. We know we can play betterthan we did the last couple days. We want to get healthy and have everybodyplay up to their potential.
If the Dodgers can pull off a sweep behind Clayton Kershawon Sunday, the division will be a dead heat. And there will be nine moremeetings between these two rivals.
Including three in October.
Right now were not swinging well, Bochy said. Weve gotguys who have been trying to find their swing. Its important we come out of itbecause weve got a lot of baseball left.