It's Not A Giant Collapse.
The Dodgers are just better.
This season was supposed to be about the Dodgers and the Padres battling to the death in the National League West. Against all odds, the Giants led the division by 5 games on August 13. I wrote then that it was time to start taking them seriously. But the thing that impressed me most about the Giants has evaporated. On Monday I wrote that I still gave the Giants the nod over the Dodgers to win the division this year because San Francisco has five starting pitchers while the Dodgers have four. Welp. A few hours later, Alex Wood tested positive for Covid-19. Then yesterday, Johnny Cueto was placed on the injured list with an elbow issue.
I no longer think the Giants have the advantage in the NL West.
The Dodgers played their best ball of the season this week, sweeping a white hot Braves team at home in three straight close games. The Giants have lost three in a row to the Brewers, Milwaukee being the main team standing between the Dodgers winning their fourth NL pennant in five years at this point. I went to Monday’s Dodger game and sat three rows behind Mookie Betts’ mom on his bobblehead night. He whacked a home run and blew her a kiss as he crossed the plate. She waved back at him. One reason I’m including this picture is because they are adorable.
The other reason is that Mookie Betts is back. He’s played the entire season with a bone spur in his hip. That tiny bone fragment may as well have been a jagged arrow into the ribs of the Dodgers quest to repeat. Before this season began I asked Clayton Kershaw why the Dodgers finally broke through and won it all last year. “Mookie,” he said, with no hesitation. Without a healthy Betts this team is simply not the four-headed monster it needs to be to win it all. The cortisone injection the Dodgers gave Betts two weeks ago seems to have worked. In six games since he returned from the injured list, Betts has homered twice and walked (5) more times than he’s struck out (4).
Even if you’re a Giants fan, you have to admit the team has played well above its skis for the last five months. This is not a diss, but a credit to the coaching staff, the front office, and the players themselves. If president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi can get this many wins out of this group of guys, it’s terrifying to think what he might be able to do over the next few years when the Giants add more impact bats and arms to their core. MLB.com ranks nineteen-year-old shortstop Marco Luciano as the fifth best prospect in the sport, and he’s on track to be promoted in 2023. MVP candidate Buster Posey looks healthy enough to handle the staff for a few more years. LaMonte Wade Jr. might be a stud. The Giants aren’t going anywhere.
But they won’t win the division this year. Even if the Dodgers somehow blow this series up in San Francisco this weekend (and there is a definite chance they will because they start David Price on Friday instead of Max Scherzer), Los Angeles is simply too talented to let the Giants pass them in the standings for good over the next 28 games.
I was going to write a separate post about AJ Pollock next week but he’s been so good I can’t wait any longer. Pollock’s tenure with the Dodgers started out rough. In 2019, he endured one of the worst postseasons any of us have ever or will ever see, going 0 for 13 in the division series vs. the Nationals with 11 strikeouts. He was flailing his bat so wildly I legitimately thought he had a vision problem. Then last season, his wife Kate gave birth to their first child three months early. Despite the pandemic and his newborn baby’s months-long NICU stay, Pollock opted to play. He posted a career best .881 OPS and led the Dodgers in homers, blasting 16 in just 60 games.
He has picked up right where he left off this season. At the game I attended on Monday night, he sprinted in from left and made a spectacular catch just over his shoelaces that was the defensive play of the game. Last night he roped a two out single in the 8th inning to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish. His OPS sits at .860. The Dodgers are so good Pollock sometimes hits eighth.
The Giants have one more game against the Brewers tonight while the Dodgers enjoy a much needed off-day. Looking at the schedule, it’s just a shame the Dodgers play the fading Padres six more times while they won’t face San Francisco again until perhaps the playoffs. But wouldn’t that be something?