How big is this series? Really big. Here's why.
The first and most obvious reason is that the Dodgers came out of the gate strong and have led the National League West since Day 1. Not only are the Dodgers the Giants' chief rivals, they are also evidently the team they will need to beat to win the division.
Arizona has shown some signs of life lately, but the Dodgers look like the team the Giants will have to knock off to regain their rightful place at the top of the NL West. The Giants are only three games back in the division today. A sweep would send L.A. home tied with them.
This year, winning your division is huge, with the new playoff format. Under the new format, the two wild cards in each league will have a "play-in game" to determine who advances. The loser goes home for the winter.
So to avoid potentially having their season come down to one game, where one bad hop or one umpire's blown call can decide their fate, the Giants need to win their division.
Second, the Giants have a pretty decent 40-33 record in 2012. However, their record against winning teams is not impressive. They are 14-17 against teams with a record above .500, losing six of 10 series against these teams.
The Giants need to prove they can beat winning teams. You don't want to go into the postseason having beat up on the sisters of the poor and lost to the strong teams. Your chance of advancing goes down considerably.
Third, the Giants need to make a statement against the Dodgers. That statement is We are the best team in this division. We're the team to beat. A sweep against L.A. at this point would do just that, as we near the halfway point in the season.
The Dodgers have struggled a bit lately and have had some injuries, losing MVP candidate Matt Kemp—who, when healthy, might just be the best player in baseball. The Dodgers were swept last week by the Oakland Athletics, who the Giants just took two of three from and should have won all three.
The Dodgers weren't expected to go anywhere this season. However, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly have done an outstanding job. Colletti put the best team he could on the field, under severe financial constraints imposed because of former owner Frank McCourt's situation. Mattingly has kept this rag-tag group together and thrilled Dodgers fans with one improbable win after another.
The magic may be wearing off. There's no doubt that the Giants have a great deal more talent than the Dodgers. It's time for the Giants to prove it in a convincing way against "Da Bums."
It's been awhile since a Giants-Dodgers series has meant something, with one team or the other being down.
Now the two are playing for a division title. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?