The Dodgers are all smiles now but still have to beat the Giants
Now that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a monstrous middle lineup of Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier, they will waltz into first place, then buzzsaw their way through the playoffs while knocking off any and every team on their way to their first World Series Championship in 24 years.
That may be what they, their fans and many baseball gurus think, but it won't go that way if the San Francisco Giants have anything to say about it. And the last time we looked, the Giants were in first place by two games.
As the old saying goes, great pitching beats great hitting, and the Giants have great pitching.
The credo will get a major league test when the Dodgers lineup faces the Giants pitching. How great will it be to see Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner compete against this modern-day "Murderer's Row"?
While ranked "only" seventh in the majors with a team ERA of 3.66 and a WHIP of 1.26, the Giants have their own group of All-Star type players in their rotation and bullpen, putting up a formidable wall against any team's offense regardless of whom they may be.
Cain, Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong are ranked in the top 15 pitchers in overall pitching, and while you never know what you will get from Barry Zito, he still eats up innings and has a positive win-loss ratio this season at 10-8.
These are very un-Lincecum numbers, to say the least, and there is really no accounting for his rapid and untimely descent. The Giants are in first place even as Lincecum tries to find his stuff, which may not bode well for the Dodgers.
And, in the last eight games, Lincecum has shown some of his old stuff, winning four of those games and dropping his ERA by .50 points.
The days of dominance in the closing position, when Brian "The Beard" Wilson was virtually un-hittable, are gone, and the Giants have moved on to a closer-by-committee using Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt in the latter innings. They have a combined 40 saves among them under the wily guidance of skipper Bruce Bochy.
Beyond their pitching, the Giants seem to manufacture just enough runs to beat their competition.
If Melky Cabreroid (Cabrera) hadn't succumbed to greed, it is safe to say the Giants would have had their own little All-Star grouping of Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence alongside Cabrera, who has been suspended for using illegal substances.
Posey powers the offense with an average of .326 and a slugging percentage of .536, and he will likely win the Comeback Player of the Year award.
The last nine meetings between the Dodgers and Giants have proven that this remains one of baseball's best rivalries. The Dodgers were swept by the Giants at home in June, then returned the favor at AT&T Park in July, only to be reswept by San Francisco last week.
Of course, all of that was before the coming of the new slate of Boston players to the Dodgers' squad.
The Dodgers are a half-a-game behind St. Louis and Atlanta in the wild-card race, and that may be an option should they not be able to overtake the Giants.
With six more games to play against each other, the Giants and the Dodgers are ramping up for a great finish that will have one of baseball's best offenses facing one of baseball's best rotations.