Giants vs. Dodgers preview: Giants have numbers on their side

Orange Friday. Freaky Freaky. Beat LA.

Those are the thoughts that will be on most Giants fans’ minds as the Giants open against the new (but necessarily improved) Dodgers Friday at AT&T Park.

And as always, it’s a big series. Both teams enter the series coming off back-to-back losses. In fact, the last three times the Giants have lost, the Dodgers have failed to gain ground, keeping the Giants’ lead in the NL West locked in at 4.5 games for the past week.

Clearly, there will be movement in the standings this weekend.

If the Dodgers sweep (and the last three series between the rivals have been sweeps), the Giants’ lead will be down to 1.5 games with a magic number to clinch the NL West holding at 21.

If the Dodgers win 2 of 3, the Giants’ lead will be 3.5 games with a magic number of 19.

If the Giants win 2 of 3, the Giants’ lead will be 5.5 games with a magic number of 17.

And if the Giants sweep (now there’s a pleasant thought), their lead would be 7.5 games with a magic number of 15.

So the Giants’ primary objection this weekend should be clear — don’t get swept.

That’s because the numbers tell us that time and the schedule are on the Giants’ side.

Friday’s game marks the first of a nine-game road trip for the Dodgers against all three NL division leaders: the Giants, Nationals and Reds. After the Dodgers get home from that trip, they get a four-game series at home against the wild card-contending Cardinals.

Meanwhile, the Giants will play 10 games against the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Rockies (seven games against the last-place Rockies).

Here’s another way to look at it:

The Giants have 25 games left — all but six against teams currently with a losing record (the three this weekend with LA and the last three in LA). If the Giants go 13-12, they will clinch the NL West if the Dodgers go 16-8 or worse. That’s a .667 winning percentage in 24 games in which 16 are against teams with winning records.

Here’s a look at the three games this week:

Friday, 7:15 p.m. MLB Network
Josh Beckett vs. Tim Lincecum

It’s a matchup of two one-time aces who have struggled this season. Lincecum is 8-14 with 5.21 ERA. But since the All-Star break, he’s been better — 5-4 with 3.26 ERA. Beckett is 6-12 with 5.03 ERA. As much as Giants fans were hoping Beckett’s move to the NL wouldn’t help his situation, early indications are that they have. He is 1-1 with 2.93 ERA in 12.1 innings with the Dodgers.

Saturday, 1:10 p.m. FOX
Chris Capuano vs. Matt Cain

If there’s a game in this three-game set that Giants fans are most confident of, it’s this one with Cain on the mound. Cain is 13-5 with 2.98 ERA. Cain has hit some bumps in the second half of the season, including his five-run-in-five-IP outing against the Cubs last Sunday. But before that, he had gone at least 7 innings and allowed no more than two runs in each of his previous four starts. And he has thrown quality starts in each of his past four home starts. Capuano (11-10, 3.63 ERA) had all-star caliber numbers in the first half of the season, but then they started to taper off. Capuano has gone 2-6 with a 4.78 ERA since the break

Sunday, 5:05 p.m., ESPN
Clayton Kershaw vs. Barry Zito

The Dodgers, realizing how important this series is, will skip Joe Blanton’s turn in the rotation to utilitze Thursday’s day off to throw Kershaw on his normal rest. The Giants will throw Barry Zito. In his tenure with the Giants, manager Bruce Bochy has NEVER liked to monkey with his rotation, and we can’t remember a time when he did skip someone who wasn’t hurt. Of course, the alternative would be to move Zito back one day, and move up Ryan Vogelsong, pitching him on normal rest. But Vogelsong hasn’t been exactly sharp recently. Still, most Giants fans would be more comfortable with Vogelsong on the mound than Zito. But Zito has surprised us before. His last five quality starts have come against playoff contenders. In his seven other starts, five came against non-contenders (if you want to count the Diamondbacks as non-contenders, and we do).

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