Series Preview: Duel in the Desert - NBC Bay Area
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Series Preview: Duel in the Desert



    Get excited, people, we've got a battle for first place on our hands!

    Okay, it's only the middle of June and there are going to be nine more games with the Diamondbacks after this series winds up on Thursday, but it is still okay to get fired up about this three-game set. The Diamondbacks are surging, the Giants look vulnerable and the two teams make for an intriguing match up of strengths and weaknesses.

    As you surely know, the Giants are still at the top of the heap in the NL West because they are blessed with a spectacular pitching staff. Even if their lineup didn't resemble a slice of Swiss cheese, they would be reliant on their arms to lead them to glory, but the current state of affairs makes their work all the more important.

    That will be particularly true in Arizona this week. The Diamondbacks have one of the better offenses in the National League (fourth in the circuit in weighted runs created when adjusted for park and league) have gotten particularly strong seasons from Justin Upton and Stephen Drew at the plate. Their pitching has been better than expected, with rookie Josh Collmenter and Ian Kennedy as particular standouts, but if they outlast the Giants it won't be because they outpitch them.

    That mix looks pretty enviable compared to the one the Giants are rolling with -- and Arizona's 22-8 mark in the last 30 games certainly has them looking like the young comers compared to a Giants team that's consumed with stopping the bleeding. That streak tells us something else about the D-Backs, however, and it is less positive. 

    Can they really expect to play to a .733 winning percentage for the rest of the season? Of course not, just as we don't expect Collmenter, Gerardo Parra and Juan Miranda to keep producing at the same level over the long haul. What you're seeing right now is the best that Arizona can do and, even with all their issues through the first two-and-a-half months, it hasn't been enough to pass the Giants.

    The Giants have won five of the first six games between the teams this season. Another series win would go a long way toward keeping the divisional status quo in place, both numerically and mentally as it would certainly build up the notion that the Diamondbacks are stuck knocking on the door without gaining entrance to the kingdom at present. 

    Those stakes are pretty good for the middle of June, especially if the result finds the Giants still looking down at the rest of the west.