The defending champion Cardinals make a two-game trip to San Francisco and despite just beating the Cubs 7-6, they're kind of reeling after getting swept by the Braves.
Of course, the Giants aren't exactly on a hot streak, going 6-4 in their last 10 games and failing to make up any ground on the Dodgers despite Matt Kemp heading to the disabled list. 18-18 is certainly better than 13-24 ('sup, Colorado?) but it's still just .500 baseball and it ain't winning any division titles.
This two-game series is totally winnable, though. What might matter most is how Carlos Beltran plays. As you'll recall, many fans wanted the Giants to re-sign Beltran after giving up a top prospect for him during the hunt last year. They didn't and the Cardinals got him on the cheap. He's been doing things this season that the Giants haven't: hitting the ball hard.
If he rakes hard this series, Twitter might shut down out of anger.
Game 1, Wednesday May 16, 7:15 p.m. PT: Madison Bumgarner (5-2, 2.80 ERA) vs. Jamie Garcia (2-2, 4.09)
Bumgarner has never faced off against former Beltran, so there's little empirical data to break this down, but let's just say I have a bad feeling that this is the game where Beltran burns the Giants.
Take a look at his splits against left-handed starters: .414/.528/.931 with four homers, eight RBI and five walks in just 36 plate appearances. Beltran's having a superb season, but those numbers absolutely killer.
Of course, Bumgarner hasn't been too shabby himself -- take out the two bookend games in Arizona (yeah, yeah, I know) where the Diamondbacks hit him hard for eight earned runs total and MadBum's sporting a 1.54 ERA and allowing guys to get on base at a .254 clip, with 19 strikeouts in 35 innings.
Garcia was pretty good the first month of the season, but has given up 10 earned runs, 13 hits and walked six guys in just 11.2 May innings as his ERA has quickly spiked. If the Giants are patient and Bumgarner can contain Beltran, this game has a good feel about it.
Game 2, Thursday May 17, 12:45 p.m. PT: Matt Cain (2-2, 2.28) vs. Adam Wainwright (2-4, 6.16)
You know what the only thing more frustrating than owning Cain in a fantasy league and watching him get hosed for wins is? Holding onto Wainwright for an entire year and watching him get shellacked all season long. OK, the second isn't quite as frustrating, but it's still sad to see a great pitcher like Wainwright get taken to the shed by the NL Central powerhouse Pirates and Cubs.
Of course, it's not like the Giants bring the pain on the offensive end of things, and Cain's got six starts against the Cards in his career, and he's 1-2 with a 4.29 ERA over those starts. On the bright side, he owns Matt Holliday, limiting the Cards slugger to a .171 batting average (albeit with two homers) over 41 plate appearances.
No one on the Giants has much of a history against Wainwright, but here's something interesting: his only two quality starts of the season have come on four days rest. Anything more and he's been awful. So there's that, which is random and weird and maybe important but probably not.
Also, I've always wanted to know -- are Wainwright and Beltran cool? Because, um, you know.