By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–The Padres have the flashiest moves, reportedly those will include a deadline deal for Max Scherzer within the next 24 hours.
The Dodgers are the current World Champions, talented, and looking to add a piece or two to keep them on top.
The Giants aren’t saying or doing much, but they’ve got the most wins, the most remaining home games, and after Thursday’s reaffirming 5-0 win, the respect of the Dodgers.
“We have so much respect for those guys. Obviously, that’s a very good ballclub,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “They’ve earned this right now, up to this point. And they played better the last seven games, clearly. All we can do is turn the page, get ready for Arizona and try to play good baseball. That’s the only focus right now that we have. We’ve still got a ways to go.”
A ways to go is down to 60 remaining games in 2021, only three of those against the Dodgers. The third-place Padres are six games behind the Giants and they have 10 of their final 19 games against the division leaders. How do you handicap this race? Quite obviously, credible cases can be made for each of the two challengers, Los Angeles and San Diego, especially with the Giants more an more likely to stand pat at the deadline.
Could the Giants surprise with their lineup of champs a half decade removed along with aging wonders Johnny Cueto, Evan Longoria, Darin Ruf? More and more, it feels like we’re about to find out.
First place is a good position to be in,” Brandon Crawford answered when asked what should the Giants do next. “We could always add pieces, there are some guys that are available that could probably help us. But we have the best record in baseball so we’re doing things pretty also. If we add, great. If we don’t, great.”
The Giants did what they needed to do Thursday. Leveling the season series with the Dodgers at 8-8 after losing the first four, and six of the first nine is huge. The Giants jumped out quick with Crawford coming off the injured list and driving in two runs in his first at-bat. The opening rally was pure opportunism, and the Giants drew three walks from Dodgers’ starter David Price then saw Crawford bounce a winner down the third base line as he clearly looked to take advantage of the defensive shift that conceded the third base line with Justin Turner playing in the shortstop hole.
“Walking three guys in that first inning, that puts myself in a tough spot, puts our team in a tough spot as well,” Price said. “Crawford did a good job of staying inside that fastball. He shot it down the third-base line. That was a big hit for them.”
The theme of striking with two outs continued for the Giants as they added single runs in the second and fourth innings. In the seventh, Lamonte Wade Jr. gave the Giants their third RBI double to cap the scoring and send the Dodgers to San Francisco International Airport post haste.
From a pitching perspective, Cueto gave the Giants all the remaining momentum they needed by pitching into the sixth inning and not allowing any runs. Cueto went the entire month of July until Thursday without a win. That put the veteran on the spot as potential spot in the rotation to upgrade. But Cueto’s response was emphatic. The veteran shut the Dodgers down with a greater percentage of fastballs, better performance the first time through the order, which had been an issue. And to top it off, and in support of a blueprint going forward, the 35-year old threw fewer than 80 pitches before he was lifted which maybe the path for him to follow allowing him to ramp up his pitches earlier in starts and not worry about getting as deep in ballgames.
“I kept telling myself that I needed to be very aggressive against these hitters because they’re difficult and hard hitters,” Cueto said after the game through his interpreter.
The Dodgers one shot to make things interesting came and went with Cody Bellinger’s at-bat in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. But reliever Jarlin Garcia–a name gaining prominence in the team’s pecking order–came on struck out the Dodgers’ slugger on three pitches.
The Giants gave catcher Buster Posey the day off as anticipated, but also did not rule out their iconic player’s return on Friday night against the Astros with his early exit on Wednesday not being ruled due to a concussion. The team said the move was precautionary, and they got good news when that belief was confirmed Thursday.
Kevin Gausman gets the start on Friday against the Astros in a matchup with Framber Valdez.