Sunday, August 9, 2009

Giants and Dodgers' Seasons Will Hinge on Upcoming Series (Again)

Brian Johnson's game-winning homer was one of many great moments in the course of this Giants-Dodgers rivalry. Could we see some more history in this week's series?

From Bleacher Report

Despite what either team's record is, nothing can beat a San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers series in the last couple months of the season.

The players, management and fans all get themselves psyched up for this legendary rivalry because they all know that bragging rights for an entire offseason can be won or lost in the span of three games.

However, some Giants-Dodgers series go beyond bragging rights.

In 1951, a three-game playoff between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers took place to determine who would win the National League Pennant.

What was produced? A "Shot Heard 'Round the World" that will resonate fondly or morbidly depending on whether you're a Giants or Dodgers fan.

In 1993, with the Giants needing to win one game to face the Atlanta Braves for a one-game playoff to determine the NL West crown, the Giants played the Dodgers in a must-win game.

The Dodgers smashed rookie pitcher Solomon Torres and the Giants 12-1, and despite winning 103 games, the Giants didn't even sniff the postseason.

In 1997, with the Giants behind the Dodgers going into their September series, little-known Giants catcher Brian Johnson mashed a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th inning.

The Giants went onto sweep the Dodgers in two games, and the series win over the Giants' hated rivals propelled the Giants to the NL West crown, and an appearance in the playoffs for the first time since 1989.

In 2004, the Giants needed a win to at least have a shot at a one-game playoff for the NL West crown. Up 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth, the wheels fell off the wagon for the Giants bullpen as walks and defensive miscues loaded the bases for Dodgers outfielder Steve Finley.

Finley hit a grand slam to win the game, and in turn, eliminated San Francisco's playoff hopes.

To say there have been "big" Giants-Dodgers games in the past may be the understatement of the century. You might as well say relations between the United States and North Korea are "less than stellar," and Shannon Doherty may have "slightly angered" television producer Aaron Spelling.

This week's series between the Dodgers and Giants may be another one that will go down in the history of great series between these two storied baseball franchises.

Because in all honesty, there will be a lot at stake this week at AT&T Park for both the Giants and Dodgers.

The Dodgers have been a hot team all year, and, thanks to the stellar play of guys like Matt Kemp, have been in first place in the NL West since April. With multiple World Series-champion Manager Joe Torre leading the helm, the Dodgers have been dubbed as a favorite to not only win the National League, but perhaps the World Series as well.

The Giants on the other hand, started to season slow and weren't expected to do much out of the gate. Yet thanks to a hot June, and the breakout performance of Pablo Sandoval, the Giants have been Wild Card contenders since the All-Star break, despite many experts writing them off in the beginning of the year.

Despite both teams' accolades, however, there is plenty to worry about for both teams and their fans going into Monday's game.

The Giants dropped two out of three games to the woeful Cincinnati Reds at home, despite having the best home record in baseball going into Friday's series.

The Dodgers dropped three out of four to the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium, allowing both the Giants and Colorado Rockies to remain in striking distance in the NL West.

Fans of both teams know that their team taking, or perhaps even sweeping, this series would not only be a stepping stone for a late-season run, but would also deflate and perhaps demolish their rival's hopes and chances in terms of making the playoffs.

The only fear though for both teams is that they don't want to be that team on the losing end. Sure, there are still a lot of games to play, including one more series between these two teams left at Dodgers Stadium.

Yet you have to look at another rivalry series that happened this week.

The Yankees swept the Red Sox in an agonizing fashion. More importantly though, the Yanks separated themselves in the American League East, and may have ended Boston's hopes of even making the postseason.

What happen to the Red Sox could easily happen to whatever team is on the losing end Wednesday, be it the Giants or Dodgers.

A series loss or sweep could result in the Dodgers choking away what many thought was an insurmountable division lead back in June. If the Dodgers lose the division to the Giants, it would rank up there with the 1951 Giants pennant run, when the bums from Brooklyn choked away the Pennant, despite leading the Giants by 13.5 games in August.

For the Giants, a similar kind of humiliation could send this organization into a tailspin. The Giants might not only miss the playoffs despite staying in the Wild Card running since June, but the lost mojo might spin the Giants into all kind of desperateness in the offseason, as Giants fans have seen countless times before.

The Giants acquiring Armando Benitez? Let's just say he was a painful result of the panic caused by Finley's 2004 home run.

It goes without saying that this series will make one team and break the other. It happened during the Red Sox-Yankees, this week, and isn't impossible to think that something similar could happen between these two National League teams.

There is no recovery or second chances from this one. It is plain and simple, "winner take all."

The thing is though, it is hard to determine who will succeed and who will falter, and because of that unpredictability, this series becomes even scarier for both Dodgers and Giants fans.

Further humiliation by their rival will only sink the losing team into even further despair.

As a Giants fan, you can only hope that despair and humiliation is reserved for the hated Dodgers. After all, they have more to lose, right?

The Dodgers had the last laugh in 2004. Five years later, you think it would be the Giants fans' turn to return the favor, right?

It should be that easy for Giants fans to think that. Then again, the Giants' last series against the Reds certainly hasn't helped.

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