San Francisco Giants: How Season Could Come Down to the Final Weekend...Again

Manny RandhawaCorrespondent IIIAugust 11, 2011

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 15:  Kelly Johnson #2 of the Arizona Diamondbacks is called out at home plate by umpire Dana DeMuth as catcher Eli Whiteside #22 of the San Francisco Giants shows the ball during the eighth inning of the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on June 15, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

For the first time since June 24, a team other than the San Francisco Giants occupies first place in the National League West.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, now by far the biggest surprise to the baseball universe in 2011, find themselves atop the division with six weeks to go in the regular season.

In a season in which most experts initially saw the Colorado Rockies pushing the defending world champion Giants for the division title, the Rockies have faded from relevance and the D'Backs, who weren't given a shot by anyone to even be a threat to compete, have thrust themselves into the forefront of the pennant chase.

So how does all of this play out?

Well, for the Giants, it may play out in a way remarkably similar to last year, when everything went down to the wire and the West was won on the final day of the regular season.

While the regular season will end on a Wednesday this season, the final weekend of the season will once again feature a head-to-head matchup of division rivals fighting for the crown.

On September 23-25, the Giants will be at Chase Field in Arizona to face the Snakes for what is shaping up to be an extremely crucial series with playoff implications written all over it.

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 17:  Manager Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants watches from the dugout during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on April 17, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Get
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With most observers waiting for Arizona to begin regressing back into the middle of the NL West pack, the D'Backs have overtaken the Giants and there's no reason to think they will slow down as we approach the finish line.

With much having been made about San Francisco's relatively weak schedule going forward, playing just 10 out of the remaining 45 games of the season against teams with a record above .500, Arizona isn't exactly facing the best in the league the rest of the way, either.

The Diamondbacks only have 12 games remaining with teams above .500.

And with both clubs having about an equal split between home and away games remaining, the D'Backs have a better road record (32-27) than the Giants (29-29).

Head-to-Head Games Will Likely Decide Winner in the West

Since it's a good bet that the NL West race will come down to the wire, it's very likely that the team that wins the head-to-head contests between the Giants and D'Backs from here on out will clinch the division title.

With the NL wild-card spot looking more and more like it's Atlanta's to lose, the division championship will likely be the only ticket to the postseason for a team coming out of the West.

So, who's got the edge head-to-head between these two teams?

The Giants lead the season series, eight games to four.

San Francisco's pitching is far superior to Arizona's (3.20 team ERA to Arizona's 4.06), but Arizona's offensive capabilities are far and away superior to San Francisco's (.250 batting average with a league-leading 132 homers compared to San Francisco's team average of just .241 with 75 homers).

Three of the six remaining games between these clubs will be played at AT&T Park, and three at Chase Field.

Why the Giants Still Have the Edge

The Giants have pitching, and good pitching always defeats good hitting. San Francisco proved that in last year's postseason, despite being labeled as heavy underdogs against offensively superior clubs like the Phillies and Rangers.

While offensively the Giants struggle to support their stellar pitching staff, never underestimate the power of pitching.

San Francisco also has big-game experience and players that have been exposed to the pressures of a pennant race and the postseason, whereas Arizona is lacking in this area.

The Giants thrive in "torturous" conditions, and have shown over the past two seasons that they come through when it counts.

No perceived edge, however, is safe when everything comes down to the final weekend of the season. For these defending world champions, though, it's doubtful that they'd have it any other way.