The San Francisco Giants cling to a two game lead in the NL West over the Los Angeles Dodgers, with the Arizona Diamondbacks lurking only six games back. With 73 games remaining, the division is definitely up for grabs.
The Giants have endured some injuries, including the loss of All-Star third baseman Pablo Sandoval for roughly six weeks and both Brian Wilson and Freddy Sanchez missing the entire season. Wilson actually pitched in two games early in the season, then had the second Tommy John surgery of his career.
In addition to those major injuries, the Giants have also endured DL stints by Ryan Theriot, Aubrey Huff and Jeremy Affeldt. The fact that the Giants are in first place in their division, nine games over .500, is a testament to their outstanding pitching and stellar managing by Bruce Bochy.
In addition, the Giants have received outstanding first halves from both Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey. Both players started the All-Star game and have been steady throughout the season.
In order for the Giants to win the NL West, they will need positive contributions across the board. However, I believe there are five key players who must either continue their success or step up from slow starts in order to carry the Giants into the playoffs.
Let's take a look at those five key players.