Less than two wins this week against the San Diego Padres would be a disaster for the San Francisco Giants.
Boy, those pesky Dodgers just won't go away will they? The Giants, after winning the series against the Phillies over the weekend, are now 1.5 games up in the West. They're sitting at 53-32, the fourth-best record in the National League.
And they get the Padres to kick off a 10-game homestand (the second set of which involves the Dodgers themselves), where they are a very impressive 29-16. Now is a time to make a big push in the division.
"If we come out on top on this homestand and hit August running, it'll be a positive thing for this team," reliever Jeremy Affeldt said recently.
On Monday night Clayton Richard (7-10, 3.86 ERA) squares off against Ryan Vogelsong (7-4, 2.31). Vogelsong's been outstanding this season, and particularly strong since the beginning of June. Perhaps that's because he has a chip on his shoulder?
"People don't take me seriously," Vogelsong said recently. "I've been pitching with a chip on my shoulder since I got here last year. I've still got something to prove. I'll probably pitch with that chip the rest of my career."
Vogelsong has little experience with any of the Padres batters, facing Mark Kotsay (five plate appearances), Jason Marquis (four plate appearances) and Chris Denorfia (one PA) only. Considering Marquis is a pitcher, they have no idea what to expect.
Richard's pitched against the Giants 10 times, compiling a 5-4 record with a 3.64 ERA in 59.1 innings.
Edinson Volquez (6-7, 3.34) and Madison Bumgarner (11-6, 3.12) go head-to-head in the second game of this series. Volquez has had bad luck this year, but the opposite's been true when he pitches against the Giants: he's got a 2-1 record despite having a 6.63 ERA against San Francisco. No one on the team has homered against him.
Bumgarner actually struggled against the Pads in his first game against them this year, giving up four earned runs over six innings. That game was on the road, though -- BumGeezy sandwiched a pair of double-digit strikeout outings around at home. So he stands to fare better this time.
That Marquis fella will get his chance to bat on Wednesday, when he (5-9, 5.58) and Tim Lincecum (4-10, 5.72) square off.
You obviously knew before the season that late in July Jason Marquis would have better statistics than Tim Lincecum. Who didn't?
Lincecum's coming off his second-straight great outing, though, and you have to think he'll be able to produce another one here. He's already gone eight innings while giving up no earned runs against the Padres once this season and over his career Lincecum's been ridiculous dominant against San Diego, going 10-4 with a 2.03 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 133 innings.
Chase Headley and the newly-extended Carlos Quentin are the only guys who've homered off him in their respective careers.
Jason Marquis is not a good pitcher by most accounts, but he's been pretty good against the Giants, including a six-inning, two-earned run, six-strikeout performance in his first appearance with the Pads.
Still, if Lincecum pitches like he has the last two outings, there's a reasonable chance of a Giants sweep here. Winning less than two games would be a disaster.