The San Francisco Giants sit atop the National League West with a slim one-game lead, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and their new shortstop Hanley Ramirez have plans to share the top spot.
The Dodgers bolstered their lineup by acquiring Ramirez from the Miami Marlins in exchange for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and a minor leaguer. Although Ramirez is batting just .252 for the season, he has 15 home runs and is 6-for-16 with the Dodgers.
In his first at-bat with Los Angeles against the St. Louis Cardinals, Ramirez tripled and then came in to score. He proceeded to hit a game-winning home run for the Dodgers on a hanging slider from Sergio Romo in the 10th of inning of Friday night's game against the Giants.
So far, the Giants have countered by acquiring Marco Scutaro,who will play third base in the absence of Pablo Sandoval, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday with a hamstring strain. Scutaro is batting .271, with four home runs and 30 RBIs.
Although the Giants may be short-handed, San Francisco will send Ryan Vogelsong against the retooled Dodgers in the series finale. Vogelsong (8-4, 2.26 ERA) is 2-0 against the Dodgers this year with an 0.63 ERA.
In order to avoid the sweep at the hands of their rivals, the Giants will have to be on top of their game. The Dodgers' ace Clayton Kershaw (7-6, 3.14 ERA) will face off against San Francisco for the third time this season.
Vogelsong beat Kershaw twice this season by scores of 2-1 and 2-0.
The Giants lost Game 1 in the 10th inning on Ramirez's home run, after they tied the game in the eighth on a Brandon Belt two-run single. Los Angeles routed Barry Zito and the Giants 10-0 in Game 2, thanks to seven combined RBIs from Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez.
Matt Cain received a no-decision in Game 1.
Too much great pitching from Chad Billingsley and too little hitting doomed the Giants.
San Francisco has still been hot since the All-Star break. They have gone 9-5 to start the second half, including a strong 4-2 East Coast road trip.
Here are some more news and notes about tonight's rivalry game.
- The Giants outscored the Dodgers 13-0 in their three-game sweep of Los Angeles June 25-27 at AT&T Park.
- The Giants are 4-4 against the Dodgers this season.
- ESPN predicts the Giants will have a 45% chance of beating the Dodgers today.
- The Dodgers are 2-2 since acquiring Ramirez.
- The Dodgers have not shutout the Giants by this large of a margin since 1997, where they beat them 11-0.
- Kershaw's career ERA against the Giants is 1.45, the lowest all-time--over a minimum of 50 innings.
The game-time temperature will be a cool 61 degrees. An 11-mph west-northwest wind will carry the ball to slightly right of center, a spot Dodgers' slugger Matt Kemp loves to take the ball.
- Melky Cabrera: 30-for-79, .380, 3 HR, 13 RBI, .414 on-base percentage.
- Brandon Belt: 10-for-58, .172, 4 RBI, 25 strikeouts, .258 OBP, .207 slugging percentage, .465 OPS.
The Giants have been playing good baseball since the break. Although the Dodgers took the first two games of the series, the Giants can still escape with a two-game lead in the NL West by winning one-out-of-three.
Even if the worst happens and the Dodgers sweep, the Giants will still be percentage points ahead of the Dodgers, but if the Giants can continue to pitch well at home and get just enough offense, they should have a great chance of winning today's game.
Of course, they will need to catch the ball too. Shortstop Brandon Crawford committed one miscue in the game yesterday, and Melky Cabrera failed to hit the cutoff man on a play at the plate.
San Francisco must also improve on their situational hitting. Both in the second and fifth innings, the Giants had a runner at second with nobody out, but failed to move the runner over or get him in.
With the Giants needing to play scrappy, especially with Sandoval out of the lineup, they cannot fail in those productive-out situations if they expect to win ball games. Once again, the Giants were plagued with their overaggressiveness with runners on base.
Still, the Giants are in first place by one game. They must realize that the pressure is on the Dodgers--not them--so it is their job to stay loose and look like the team ahead in the standings.
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Information from ESPN.com contributed to this article.
Check out my NBCBayArea.com article on the San Jose Giants' Joe Panik.