The showdown begins tonight.
And all of a sudden, it's really a showdown.
The defending world champions and—no, not the Colorado Rockies—the Arizona Diamondbacks, are separated by just two games heading into their three-game series at AT&T Park, as the dog days of August are finally upon us.
The Giants are coming off a rough sweep in Cincinnati, where the Reds outscored San Francisco 20-5, dropping an already lifeless offense into the very bottom position in the National League in runs scored (382).
The Giants, who up until this past weekend appeared to be in cruise control in the NL West with a lead that was at one point as much as 4.5 games, now find themselves in danger of actually falling into second place if all goes horribly wrong between now and Wednesday afternoon.
San Francisco cannot afford to be in that position at this stage of their season schedule.
That's because the next team to pay them a warm visit is the Philadelphia Phillies.
If the Giants should drop two of three against Arizona, giving the Diamondbacks a huge injection of confidence about their ability to beat San Francisco, not to mention pulling them to within one game of the division lead, the momentum shift would have the potential to drastically change the complexion of the NL West as the stretch run begins.
Since things aren't going to get any easier for the defending champs in the immediate future, this is the moment the Giants need to seize in order to put some distance between themselves and the D'Backs, while at the same time sending a message loud and clear about their command in the division.
After picking up Jeff Keppinger, Carlos Beltran and Orlando Cabrera over the past two weeks, Brian Sabean and Giants management showed just how serious they are about winning a second consecutive World Series title.
If they are to make the postseason, let alone take the right momentum into October, it all starts tonight against the club that has surprisingly stayed on San Francisco's heels all season.
Not only do the Giants need to stave off Kirk Gibson's hard-charging Snakes, they need to do it with bravado.
If there was ever a statement series, forget about those three games in Philadelphia last week.
A statement needs to be made now, and that statement needs to be something along the lines of "we are the defending world champions for a reason, and there's no way you're going to catch us in the West."
The Giants have Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong taking the hill in this home series, which bodes very well for San Francisco.
The Giants also have the home debuts of Carlos Beltran and Orlando Cabrera to get an already buzzing, sell-out crowd into the swing of things.
Bruce Bochy's boys would do well to take advantage of these favorable circumstances and give the hometown fans something that would be a huge blow to Arizona's team-psyche: a sweep.
The Giants appeared to have gotten into the heads of their NL East rival Phillies. Now it's time to get in the heads of the D'Backs by making it ever so clear that San Francisco is, and will remain, the class of the National League West.
By the Numbers
- Over the past three seasons, the Diamondbacks as a team are hitting just .204 against tonight's starter for the Giants, Matt Cain.
- Tim Lincecum will take the ball for the second game of the series Tuesday night. In the last three seasons Lincecum is 6-2 with a 2.81 ERA against Arizona, with 106 strikeouts compared to just 22 walks in 86.1 innings pitched. The D'backs have hit just .222 against him in that span.
- In his last start against Arizona on June 16, Ryan Vogelsong (Wednesday's starter) gave up two runs on six hits over six innings.
- Over the past three seasons Carlos Beltran is hitting .375 at AT&T Park.
- The newest Giant, veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera, has a .323 batting average (10-for-31, five doubles and a home run) against Arizona from 2008-2010.
- The Diamondbacks acquired right-handed starting pitcher Jason Marquis from the Washington Nationals just before the trade deadline yesterday. Marquis will make his debut with Arizona against the Giants Wednesday. Since 2008 Marquis is 1-3 against San Francisco, but has a 2.93 ERA over that span and has held Giants hitters to a .217 batting average against him.