All right! Dodgers-Giants starts today. Usually when it comes to baseball, I don't get super-psyched about certain things. I like to keep things in perspective, because a baseball season is a marathon...one...long...marathon. So, as psyched as I would like to get about hot starts (e.g. Pat Burrell), I try to keep it in perspective because I know for every hot start that's bound to cool (as we have seen from Nate Schierholtz this year...though Schierholtz should still be playing), there's a slump a player is bound to break out of (I'm mostly pointing this out to all those Panda haters on Twitter).
That being said, Dodgers-Giants is different. It's baseball's oldest, most competitive and most heated rivalry. The only reason more fans don't know that is because Red Sox-Yankees gets all the headlines on ESPN, and the rivalry is on the West Coast. I can't blame the East Coast fans though. It's kind of hard to get psyched about a rivalry when most of the games start at 10 p.m. on their side of the country.
However, for the West Coast baseball fans, and especially Giants fans, here are 10 things you should know before the series' first pitch tonight.
1.) The Giants and Dodgers are separated by 0.5 games in the NL West.
We're rough 75 games into the season and the Giants and Dodgers are fighting for that second spot currently behind the first place Padres, who lead the NL West by 4.5 games. Granted, the season is still very early, so whether or not the Giants or Dodgers come out on top is really trivial at this point. However, getting a series win over the Dodgers would be nice, and would give them some much needed momentum as they head into the All-Star break.
2.) Zito, Cain and J. Sanchez will be on the hill for the Giants this series.
It's too bad Lincecum pitched the rubber game of the Red Sox series, but the Giants still bring a solid rotation into this series. There are concerns of course: Zito has bounced back in June a little bit (2.45 K/BB ratio; 4.63 xFIP) after a rough May (1.07 K/BB ratio; 5.51 xFIP), but he's still far from his April-form (2.71 FIP; 4.14 xFIP). Cain is coming off his worst start of the year (2.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER), and J. Sanchez is well...J. Sanchez.
3.) Jonathan Broxton of the Dodgers is one of the league's best closers.
Don't believe me? He has a 7 K/BB ratio, a 0.93 FIP and a 1.93 xFIP. And he's doing this despite posting a .395 BABIP. Sure, I hate saying it because he's a Dodger, but if the Giants get into the ninth behind, chances are, Broxton's not blowing it.
4.) Edgar Renteria is hitting well since returning off the disabled list.
Renteria may be the key to this series, which I hate to say because it will mean the benching of either Pablo Sandoval or Buster Posey (The Giants won't bench Juan Uribe, but considering he's their main power source, I wouldn't want them too). In his past seven games, Renteria has 10 hits including 3 doubles, and has drawn four walks in 28 plate appearances. Who knows how long Renteria will be on the Giants (I think he'll be good trade bait at the Trade Deadline), but he could have a surprise impact this series.
5.) Sandoval could see the bench in a couple games this series.
It hasn't been a great month for the Panda, which makes two bad months in a row. In 94 plate appearances this month, he has a .226 average, a .280 wOBA and a .119 ISO (Eli Whiteside has a higher ISO than Sandoval). Those numbers, along with the cries of the panicking Giants fans out there and Renteria's hot return may doom Sandoval, which is a shame because he was an emotional sparkplug in last August's series at AT&T Park when he challenged Dodgers pitcher James MaCdonald after an inside pitch.
6.) Manny Ramirez is the Dodgers hitter to watch.
In the month of June, Manny is hitting .333 with four home runs and has a wOBA of .420 and a wRC of 17.0. Considering how much of an impact Manny had last year, this is definitely frightening to see for Giants fans.
7.) Matt Kemp is struggling badly this June.
Kemp may have kissed his All-Star status goodbye after a miserable June. His wOBA is .253 and he has a BB/K ratio of 0.25. Kemp hasn't shown much power either, as evidenced by his .130 ISO. Kemp had a big impact in last year's August series at AT&T Park, so hopefully, his cold streak will continue for the remainder of June.
8.) Other than Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo, the Dodgers bullpen is a mess.
George Sherrill has a xFIP of 5.93 in June. Carlos Monasterios has a xFIP of 6.25. Those were two relievers who were supposed to have a big impact for the Dodgers this year and they haven't lived up to expectations. Add that with their implosion against the New York Yankees at home last night, and it's easy to see why the Dodgers bullpen won't have a lot of momentum as they play the Giants tonight.
9.) John Ely has been mortal in June.
Remember the 1.71 FIP Ely of May? Well, he's been far from that form in June. His FIPBABIP (.259 in comparison to .293 in May). Ely has struggled with control immensely this June, as evidenced by his 1.50 K/BB ratio. Ely will start the second game of the series against the Giants on Tuesday. Hopefully, Ely will be close to June form, which could help Cain notch his first career win against the Dodgers (0-7 lifetime against LA).
10.) The Giants still lead the overall regular season series.
The Giants have won 1,080 games in the history of this series. The Dodgers have won 1,068. Giants still up by 12 games. That still counts in my book.