Matt Cain has emerged as the Giants' most reliable pitcher
At this stage in the season, every game and series is important. The Giants are currently 3.5 games in front of the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West. In the past few weeks, the Dodgers have added several big-name players, such as Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Josh Beckett.
The Giants still hold the lead in the division race, but you can expect the Dodgers to make another run at them before the season is over. With this in mind, obviously the two series' against the Dodgers are the most crucial. Each game is, in reality a two-game swing in the standings.
Beginning on Friday, September 7th, the Giants host the Dodgers for three games. I believe this series is the most important at this point, because if the Giants can win two out of the three games, or potentially even sweep, then the final series of the year may not be an issue.
The Giants have not played that well at home since the Dodgers swept them in late July. In fact, beginning with that series, the Giants are 6-11 at home, in their last 17 games at AT&T Park. Giants' manager Bruce Bochy and his team desperately want to regain the winning formula at home.
The Giants' starting rotation for these three games, if everything progresses on schedule, will be Tim Lincecum, followed by Matt Cain, then Barry Zito. They will need to pitch well in order for the Giants to take the series.
If the division race is still undecided for the final series of the regular season, the Giants will need to win in Los Angeles. The starting pitchers lined up for that series will be Zito, Vogelsong and Bumgarner, barring any changes to the current rotation.
Hopefully, the Giants will be more than three games ahead of Los Angeles entering into that final series, so it will not be a life or death situation for the Giants' playoff entry.
In addition to the pitching, I believe the key for the Giants' playoff push is for both Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence to begin driving the ball with authority. They both need to do a better job of getting on base and knocking in runs. Pence's three-run homer in the first inning of yesterday's game was a very good sign.
The Giants are in full control of their own destiny. Now, it is up to them to earn their playoff berth on the field.