The Giants have to make up a six game deficit if they're to repeat last year's division title
Can San Francisco catch Arizona?
The Giants don't need to be perfect against the Snakes; a more plausible scenario is going 4-2 against Arizona and making up the rest of the deficit against sub-.500 division foes Colorado, San Diego and Los Angeles.
That's essentially how they overcame San Diego last September, going 4-3 against the Padres and 14-7 against the rest of the West.
And yes, the Padres' 0-10 late August/early September nose-plant didn't hurt.
Stepping back from the soap opera ("All My .239-Hitting Children;" "The Old and the Punchless") that is your 2011 Giants, here's a peek at four trends in the NL West entering the home stretch.
Closer Putz and fellow D-Backs play to half-empty houses
The Arizona Diamondbacks won the final three games of a grueling 10-game eastern road swing then swept the Rockies and Padres in a six-game home stand, during which their NL West lead swelled from three to six games.
All in front of adoring throngs at glitzy Chase Field, right?
Attendance at Chase over the six-game home stand averaged 26,668, a tad under 55 percent of its 48,633 capacity.
Unbelievably, that was an increase of about 2,000 patrons per game over the D-Backs' season average of 24,377.
Worse still, the first-place D-Backs are drawing slightly fewer fans than they did in 2010 when they went 65-97. They rank 14th in NL attendance (the Giants are second, trailing only the Phillies).
Were I Ian Kennedy (17-4, 3.03 ERA) or Justin Upton (.294 BA, 26 HR, 80 RBI, 20 SB, .909 OPS)—legit CY Young and MVP candidates respectively—I'd be bemused if not a little annoyed.
Since Kirk Gibson's boys are unaccustomed to playing to full houses, it's on the 41,000-plus patrons who'll pack AT&T this weekend to remind them (creatively and vocally) what that's like.
Triple-Crown threat Kemp's Dodgers will have a say in who wins the West
The Los Angeles Dodgers are having a forgettable season—and that's being kind—but they'll have a major say over who wins the 2011 NL West title.
L.A. is on a 9-1 winning binge entering the weekend. They're at the front end of a 10-game road trip that culminates with three in San Francisco Sept. 9-11 (it's actually 11, including a make-up game played yesterday at Pittsburgh).
The Dodgers host the Giants and D-Backs during a subsequent nine-game home stand, then finish on the road including a season-ending series...at Arizona.
In that recent 10-game stretch L.A. has scored a gaudy 65 runs (for Giant fans who've forgotten this, a "run" is scored when an offensive player advances around the bases and steps on home plate...).
You know how much perverse satisfaction the Dodgers would draw from keeping their natural rivals out of the postseason.
If—and it's a big "if"—the Giants are still alive when the Dodgers visit Arizona beginning Sept. 26, the defending champs' hopes will hinge on Don Mattingly's crew. An unsettling thought.
Padres skipper Bud Black knows what Bruce Bochy is going through
Like the Dodgers, the San Diego Padres will influence the outcome of the Giants-Diamondbacks division race; the Friars face the contenders a combined 13 times (seven vs. Arizona, six vs. San Francisco), all between Sept. 5-18.
Unlike the Dodgers, the Padres may well influence the race about as much as picket fences "influenced" Hurricane Irene.
During their current seven-game losing skid the Pads have scored 11 runs—combined. They've tallied one run or fewer in five of the seven losses.
That's dreadful. The Giants can relate.
The Padres have been equal-opportunity victims against the NL West's top two (4-7 vs. Arizona, 5-7 vs. SF), but fair to assume they, too, would relish wreaking havoc with the Giants' repeat bid.
Check back on Sept. 18 to see how that plays out.
Tulo is having a fabulous 2011 - and loves thumping the Giants
Troy Tulowitzki is an equal-opportunity beast, with double-digit career HRs against every NL West foe.
But there's a little more spice to his game against the Giants.
And with seven more opportunities to torment San Francisco in 2011 (only three against Arizona), you worry about the impact the East Bay native may have on the Giants' dwindling title hopes.
Tulowitzki leads an offense that reminds you a bit of the original Blake Street Bombers; his numbers (.308, 28 HR, 94 RBI) are on track to slightly exceed his career averages.
The Rockies are offensively scary (626 runs scored, third in the NL, compared to the Giants' league-low 460).
Also reminiscent of the old Rockies, their pitching scares no one (642 runs allowed, 14th in the NL). That's largely why Arizona's powerful offense has feasted on Colorado (11-4, with one three-game series remaining at Denver Sept. 5-7).
The Giants are 7-4 against Colorado but have scored only 39 runs. The clubs meet seven times, including three to close out the regular season in San Francisco Sept. 26-28.