The San Francisco Giants are the reigning world champions, having captured their second World Series win in three seasons. In this position, the Giants will get the focus and attention of every team they play.
Taking an advanced look at the schedule is fun, but you cannot always determine where there will be easy stretches and rough patches.
Good and bad stretches often occur because of the way you are playing, not who the opponent is. With that being said, there are four specific stretches to be wary of.
The Giants open the season with a three-game set at Los Angeles. They will be facing Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and either Korean star Hyun-Jin Ryu or veteran Chad Billingsley.
Kershaw and Greinke are two of the best pitchers in baseball and the Giants typically have trouble against pitchers they have never seen before—and Ryu qualifies. His GM, Ned Colletti, had never even seen him pitch in person when the Dodgers signed him to a six-year $62 million deal.
If you recall in 2012, the Giants started the season off with three straight losses to Arizona before getting their first win. The Dodgers will be looking to make an early statement, so this will be a very tough opening series.
Following Los Angeles, the Giants head home to face the St. Louis Cardinals, their rival from the 2012 NLCS. The Cardinals will be one of the top teams in baseball again, so the Giants will open the year with six very tough games.
The second stretch in the schedule that could be a problem is a ten game homestand in early May. The Giants will play three games against the Dodgers and Phillies, then finish it off with four against the Braves.
These three teams look to be playoff contenders and some of the best in the National League. Even though this is at home, this promises to be a tough stretch.
The Giants then have two brutal stretches where they play 33 games and have only one off-day. The first of these stretches is from June 11-July 14. This stretch ends at the All-Star break, which will be a welcome respite for any player not making the All-Star team.
The Giants open this stretch at Pittsburgh, then head to Atlanta, before coming home to play the Padres and Marlins. Following the homestand, the Giants head to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers, then get their one day off during this stretch.
The second stretch of 33 games in 34 days begins on August 13 in Washington DC, culminating in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on September 15.
In between are games at Miami, then home against the Red Sox and Pirates, followed by a road trip to Colorado, which is always tough on a pitching staff. Following the Colorado series, the Giants get their only day off during this stretch, but have to travel to Arizona, then to San Diego.
It is during this Arizona series on the road that September 1 rolls around and the Giants will be able to expand their roster. The reinforcements will most assuredly be a welcome sight to the weary players at this stage of the season.
Who Will Win the NL West?
Following the trip to San Diego, the Giants return home to face the Diamondbacks and Rockies before completing this difficult stretch with four games against the Dodgers. It is this stretch of games that will most likely make-or-break the Giants' chances in 2013.
The key for the Giants in 2013 will be to stay healthy. If they do, they have a great chance to make it to the playoffs and make another deep postseason run.