#BEATLA should be a hashtag you see frequently on Twitter over the weekend, what with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants squaring off in San Francisco and the Giants leading the NL West by three games.
The nightmare scenario for the Giants is, quite obviously, giving up a division lead. Best-case scenario, though? The Giants leave with a whopping six-game lead in the NL West.
Things look pretty good for the Giants, having won four of six against L.A., and with the Dodgers struggling into the series, willingly acknowledging momentum is not heading their way right now.
"It seems like the momentum we had kind of shifted the other way on us," Dodgers catcher Matt Treanor said. "I think we're looking forward to leaving town and get fired up for the Giants."
The last time the Giants started a series against the Dodgers, it was June 25th, and L.A. had a two-game lead in the division. San Francisco promptly busted out the brooms and swept the series without allowing a run.
These Dodgers are different, since they have Matt Kemp back and just added Hanley Ramirez, so let's take a look at the matchups.
The Giants get off to a good start, with Matt Cain (10-3, 2.74 ERA) getting the nod in the series opener against Stephen Fife (0-0, 1.50) who's had one start in the majors, July 17 against the Phillies, when he went six innings while limiting the Phils to four hits and one earned run while walking three and striking out one. Whether or not he can do that against the Giants, well, your guess is as good as mine with limited evidence. Though, the Giants aren't the Phillies, either..
A small number might be enough: in Cain's last five starts against the Dodgers, he's 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA. He's also dominated Hanley (2-of-12 over the last three seasons) and has limited Kemp in recent matchups.
Oddly enough, it looks like Barry Zito (8-6, 3.75) versus Chad Billingsley (5-9, 4.15) could very well end up deciding this series: that's what happens when Cain and Clayton Kershaw are involved in the other two games. Zito is, shockingly, 1-1 against the Dodgers this year, pitching 13 innings with a 2.08 ERA, having struck out seven and walked seven over that span. Zito went seven innings without allowing a run during that last Giants stretch.
Bills hasn't been quite as money, rolling 10 innings in two starts against the Giants this year. In that span, his WHIP is 2.30. So, yeah. Slight advantage Giants, which is probably negated by the fact that the Giants offense is dinged up with Pablo Sandoval missing.
On the final game, it's important to note that Ryan Vogelsong (8-4, 2.26) hasn't just been better than Kershaw (7-6, 3.14) this year, he's also got the third-longest streak of lasting six innings or longer in baseball (though he's not even close to Justin Verlander's 63-straight starts doing so). Vogey was a surprise last year, but he's been a revelation in 2012.
And he's straight-up shredded the Dodgers this year: two starts, two wins and a 0.63 ERA in 14.1 innings. He only has four strikeouts (and 15 hits allowed ...) in that span, but if he can do what he's done to the Dodgers thus far, the Giants are in good shape, especially if they do what they've done to Kershaw in 2012.
Kershaw's pitched well but been a tough-luck loser against the Giants thus far this year (how's THAT feel, buddy??), pitching 14 innings, striking out 15, posting a 2.57 ERA ... and still going 0-2. It's reminiscent of Tim Lincecum matching up against Kershaw last year.
The Giants would be thrilled simply taking the series and adding a single game to their lead. They'd be disappointed by losing it, obviously and devastated by a sweep. But they have to know, with the Dodgers scuffling right now and the matchups falling very favorably, there's a chance to do some damage.