Finally a return home to Los Angeles for the Dodgers, who struggled mightily on the road in trips to Denver and Chicago taking one game in each three-game series. Still, the team holds the top record in the National League, and a four-game cushion over the Giants in the West, a margin that could either increase or decrease dramatically in this upcoming series.
San Francisco is hurting, and it is no secret. They lost their closer Brian Wilson perhaps for the season, and followed that with the loss of their star player, third baseman Pablo Sandoval. The Giants come into this series having won two straight game against the Milwaukee Brewers, but only after dropping four straight against the Miami Marlins. Their batting average of .259 ranks ninth in baseball, but their 108 runs is just 18th.
The Giants always boast a stellar pitching staff, and this year is no different. They hold a 3.18 ERA, fourth in the Majors, but allow a .237 BAA, 12th in the game.
Infield: After being restrained to just 45 games last season, Buster Posey is back behind the backstop for the Giants, and is hitting better than ever, producing a .329 batting average with four home runs and 11 RBIs. He is throwing out 29 percent of would-be base-stealers.
At first is the young, but always dangerous Brandon Belt who has been extremely consistent as the season progresses, hitting .278. He is capable of driving pitches deep for the long ball, but has failed to do so this season. He is a patient batter, who posts an OBP of .381 and will draw his share of walks.
Former friend Ryan Theriot is the second baseman for the Giants, filling in for the injured Freddy Sanchez who may be out until the All-Star break. A career .281 hitter is Theriot, but he is only hitting .208, and struggling even further in May, hitting just .125 for the month. He is no longer a threat to steal as he once was, having been caught seven times in 11 tries since last season.
Local product Brandon Crawford is the shortstop, but will feel pressure from Joaquin Arias as manager Bruce Bochy attempts to give Crawford some “mental rest”. Crawford is hitting .198 with a home run and eight RBIs, while Arias hits .286 with four RBIs. Expect to see Arias more in the series with Lilly and Kershaw on the mound in consecutive nights.
The absence of a team’s star player never results positively, the Giants are seeing that because Conor Gillaspie‘s .188 batting average hails in comparison to Pablo Sandoval‘s .316. The Giants also have to replace five home runs and 15 RBIs. Gillaspie meanwhile, has a home run and four RBIs in his career.
Outfield: Many remember out-fielder Melky Cabrera from the Yankee days. In three seasons since leaving New York he has played for three different teams, most recently the Giants, and is doing well. He holds a .318 batting average with a home run and 10 RBIs. He will need to provide an extra spark for San Francisco as he is one of the few remaining players on the roster with some pop in his bat.
Center-fielder Angel Pagan has surprised many by hitting four home runs in the early going of the season. His .267 batting average is slightly up from last season, but otherwise could be living proof of the difficulties of hitting at CitiField in New York being a former Met. Pagan has much speed, stealing four-of-five bases this season, but almost assuredly will not get on base if he does not make contact.
Don’t let right-fielder Gregor Blanco‘s .237 batting average fool you. The Giants’ fifth outfielder is stealing at-bats because he is making the most of them, hitting .313 in the month of May. Granted the bulk of the production came out of a 3-for-3 day against the Marlins. He is hitting 0-for-8 since then. There is little-to-no power with Blanco’s bat, having homered just twice in his career.
Starters: Barry Zito has surprised many with his numbers this season, but the Giants have not supported him, scoring 3.0 runs per game in the four outings he did not factor in. Most recently he had a troubling outing against the Reds, pitching 3.2 innings but tossing 91 pitches, thanks to seven walks, a number that beat out his walk rate in his four previous starts.
The Giants are 1-3 when Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound, and that’s mainly due to allowing six hits per game in a little over 6.1 innings pitched per outing, meaning a hit per inning. Vogelsong adjusts well to his assignment, but makes a lot of pitches, which can led to an early hook. In his last appearance he threw 116 pitches in 7.0 innings.
Most interestingly the Giants and their ace has been in complete disarray. Tim Lincecum at one point was a back-to-back Cy Young award winner. Now, at only 27-years-old, Lincecum is struggling mightily, having walked at least four batters in his last three appearances, winning two of them. His strikeout high for the season is eight. The Dodgers will have a beautiful opportunity to rock Lincecum.
Closer: With “the beard”, Brian Wilson sidelined for the foreseeable future, the Giants have elected to turn to Santiago Casilla in save situations, and shaky he is. Casilla has converted five-of-six saves, blowing his last opportunity yesterday. He has allowed seven hits in 9.0 innings pitched, one of which was a home run, which pegged him with a loss against the Marlins last Tuesday, a game which he was trying to hold a lead. Casilla posts a K/BB ratio of 3.33.
Monday, May 7th at 7:10 p.m.: Ted Lilly (3-0) vs. Barry Zito (1-0) – KCAL – Cooler Bag
Tuesday, May 8th at 7:10 p.m.: Clayton Kershaw (2-0) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (0-2) – KCAL, MLB Network
Wednesday, May 9th at 7:10 p.m.: Chad Billingsley (2-2) vs. Tim Lincecum (2-2) – Prime Ticket