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July 30, 2012

What You Need to Know

Monday, July 30

by Daniel Rathman

The Weekend Takeaway
The Giants blanked the Dodgers in a three-game series at AT&T Park in late-June, turning a three-game gap in the National League West standings into a tie. This past weekend, the Dodgers got their revenge, and the California rivals are all even again.

When the teams met a month ago, Don Mattingly’s lineup did not include Matt Kemp, who was on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. This past weekend, Bruce Bochy was forced to make do without Pablo Sandoval, who was on the disabled list with a similar ailment.

From June 25-27, the Dodgers—with minor-league veteran Elian Herrera at third base and Kemp on the shelf—could not score. During the past two days—with Hanley Ramirez announcing his arrival with a two-run homer in the 10th inning on Friday, and Marco Scutaro merely providing stability to a feckless Giants infield—the shoe was on the other foot.

On Saturday, Ben Lindbergh cautioned against juxtaposing the latter acquisition with the former. At their best, Ramirez is a difference-maker for Los Angeles and Scutaro a placeholder for San Francisco. But if one thing was made clear by this weekend’s three games, it is that the Giants’ hopes may hinge on Sandoval’s timely return.

Both teams will keep shopping as the clock ticks down to the trade deadline, with a starting pitcher and outfielder topping Ned Colletti’s wish list and reinforcements for the bullpen and bench heading Brian Sabean’s. Colletti did not overreact when his team was outscored 13-0 at AT&T Park in June, and Sabean probably won’t alter his July 31 priorities based on this past weekend’s 19-3 affair. But as Ben wrote two days ago, “in the NL West, a bit could be a big deal.”

In the meantime, for the Dodgers and the Giants, it’s a brand-new ballgame. And the Diamondbacks, who have improved to an even 51-51 by winning seven of their last 10, lurk only 4 ½ games back.

Ramirez has supplanted Juan Uribe, Scutaro is filling in for Sandoval, and Chris Johnsonacquired from the Astros on Sunday—will try to provide a jolt from Ryan Roberts’ old home in the desert. The health and performance of the third basemen may be the difference in the division come October 3.

It certainly was this weekend.

What to Watch for on Monday

  • With Zack Greinke joining the Angels’ rotation and the Rangers still scrambling to add a pitcher before the trade deadline, the American League West race figures to come down to the wire. Greinke made his Anaheim debut on Sunday and will not pitch in the upcoming series, but the next four games could either reassert Texas’ edge or bridge most of the 4 ½-game gap between the teams. Roy Oswalt will get the ball for the first time since July 17, and tonight’s game will mark his first junior-circuit showdown with Albert Pujols, who has more plate appearances (105) against the 34-year-old right-hander than any other player. Pujols has logged a 26-for-86 (.302 average) line with seven doubles and five home runs in their past meetings (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • The Reds have won 10 games in a row. Not startling enough? Don’t forget that they have done so without Joey Votto, who is on the disabled list with a knee injury. Dusty Baker’s team (61-40) is now tied with the Nationals for the best record in baseball and owns a three-game lead on second-place Pittsburgh in the National League Central, with the third-place Cardinals 4 1/2 behind the Pirates. As the Reds try to extend their surge to 11, they will take on old friend Edinson Volquez, who tossed seven innings of one-run ball and fanned 10 in a no-decision against trade-mate Mat Latos at Petco Park on July 5. Volquez has struck out 41 batters and allowed only seven earned runs in 40 2/3 innings (1.55 ERA) since June 24, and he will take on Mike Leake in his first trip to Great American Ball Park since the off-season swap (7:10 p.m. ET).
  • At one point in last week’s outing against the Marlins, Tommy Hanson’s line included seven outs, four walks, and five stolen bases. By the time he was pulled after five innings, the 25-year-old righty had walked a career-high seven batters—yet the Marlins had scored only one run, and the Braves went on to win, 7-1. That victory was the second in a winning streak that has since grown to five, and Hanson will try to rein in the walks and steals to keep it going in tonight’s rematch (7:10 p.m. ET).
  • Ricky Romero hit rock bottom in his last start—or, at least, it better have been rock bottom, because the lefty issued six walks and was charged with eight runs in 1 1/3 innings against the A’s. Tonight’s game in Seattle, which offers both a friendly opponent and a friendly ballpark, may be Romero’s last chance to keep his spot in manager John Farrell’s rotation and avoid being placed on the disabled list with a phantom injury. He is 1-1 with a 3.05 ERA and 16-to-6 K/BB in three career starts at Safeco Field (10:10 p.m. ET).
  • Ike Davis picked up two hat tricks this past weekend: one of homers on Saturday, the other of strikeouts on Sunday. The Mets first baseman has smacked six big flies in his last seven games, and he looks poised to enjoy a big second half if he can find a way to reduce his strikeouts. Davis has never faced tonight’s Giants starter, Madison Bumgarner, but he is 5-for-16 with two home runs in four career games at AT&T Park. Bumgarner, on the other hand, has allowed only three homers in 66 2/3 innings at China Basin this season (10:15 p.m. ET).

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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