Standings Monday and the Week Ahead: #SFGiants Have the Best Record in All The Land, NL Central Up Next

Fifty games into the season, the Giants have won sixty-four percent of their matches, with one of those being suspended and to be made up in September. The Giants have a Top-5 strand rate from their pitching staff, the bullpen is second in the league in shutdowns and are tied for seventh-fewest meltdowns. Their offense has stepped up with two outs and RISP producing a league-leading .281/.376/.457 line with 80 RBI. That they are so far of the league average has me wondering if they are going to be able to keep this up, or they’re striving to be the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals in these kinds of situations, which, I would have no problem with that. A look at the standings, which have the Giants with the best record in the Majors by two whole games:

Giants (32-18)

Rockies (27-23, 5.0 games back)

Dodgers (27-24, 5.5 GB)

Padres (23-28, 9.5 GB)

Diamondbacks (20-32, 13.0 GB)

The Rockies have lost Nolan Arenado for a little bit of time at least, that would be a hit to both their offense and defense. Carlos Gonzalez is back in the lineup and Troy Tulowitzki says he’s OK after leaving Sunday’s game early. I believe the Rockies need both Tulo and CarGo in order to stay competitive, and if either of them get benched for a long time, that would spell big-time trouble for the Rockies chances at a playoff spot.

The Dodgers have just come off a no-hitter by Josh Beckett, as they hope that accomplishment spins them into a more consistent winning direction. They have Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-jin Ryu back, and will be trying Matt Kemp in LF soon. The Dodgers have the pieces, although if they want to catapult to the top, their bullpen is going to have to step up.

The week ahead has the Giants finishing off their thirteen-of-sixteen game homestand with the Cubs, then beginning a seven-game roadtrip, beginning with a four-game 2012 NLCS rematch with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs are 8-17 on the road, and the Cardinals have the “Best Fans in Baseball” carrying them to a 14-7 home record. A look at the probables:

Monday: Jeff Samardzija vs. Yusmeiro Petit

The Shark has been the subject of a lot of trade talk, but the Giants don’t have the riches to spare to acquire Samardzija, as great of a get as it probably would be. You will hear about his 0-4 win-loss record, but don’t let that fool you: this is a quality pitcher, worthy of being a part of a 1-2 punch, were a rotation to have one. Petit gets the spot start while Matt Cain recovers from a grade one hamstring strain, and all expectations are pointing to him being ready for his next start.

Tuesday: Jeff Arrieta vs. Tim Hudson

Arrieta hasn’t done bad in his four starts this season, though I’m sure the Cubs will be looking for him to continue getting strikeouts, but hoping he can keep those walks down. Arrieta will have some very tough competition in Hudson, who, outside of his rain-shortened start in Colorado, has been consistently amazing.

Wednesday: Edwin Jackson vs. Tim Lincecum

Two pitchers that battle control issues and also have their fair share of strikeouts. If that’s your jam, Wednesday is your game.

Thursday: Ryan Vogelsong vs. Jaime Garcia

Jaime Garcia has no walks in his two starts in 2014, also has twelve K’s and has allowed two home runs. Vogey has been nails since that bullpen session in Colorado in mid-April.

Friday: Madison Bumgarner vs. Adam Wainwright

Cancel your plans because you have a baseball game to watch Friday night.

Saturday: Matt Cain vs. Lance Lynn

This assumes Cain will be ready, and if he isn’t, he’ll be on the DL and Petit will probably be starting in his place (again). Lance Lynn has a seemingly high .314 BABIP in 2014, but that’s actually right in line with his career average. Lynn is hoping he doesn’t have to deal with any errant throws that go off of bases, and he will be thrilled to avoid Barry Zito.

Sunday: Tim Hudson vs. Michael Wacha

Though glaringly absent during their 2013 Postseason run, Wacha has been back to being lights out for the Cardinals in 2014, and this will be the second of two really good pitching matchups between the Giants and Cardinals. Wacha was hit in the dugout above the elbow on a line drive, but he says he’s OK and will be starting Monday against the Yankees.

Fans will expect the Giants to win both series, but I think they go 1-0-1 in these two matchups. I think they take the second two from the Cubs, and win the bookends of the series against the Cardinals. A 4-3 stretch against two teams isn’t bad, and I think you could find a lot of fans that would be happy with that, considering the matchups.

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