Third place is suddenly looking like a realistic finish for the Giants, who try to bounce back from a tough series-opening loss to the hard-charging Dodgers on Saturday night at AT&T Park.
It’s been a month since San Francisco (75-69) was last atop the West, when entering play Aug. 10 it held a half-game lead on second-place Arizona while Los Angeles sat 11 games back in fourth.
The Diamondbacks’ incredible surge, combined with the Giants’ collapse, has the World Series champions closer to fourth-place Colorado than first. A battle of aces Tim Lincecum(notes) and Clayton Kershaw(notes) in Friday’s opener came down to the bullpens, and Los Angeles struck for a run in the ninth against the normally reliable Santiago Casilla(notes) to pull out a 2-1 victory.
San Francisco fell 8 1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks, while the Dodgers (71-72) have won 14 of 17 and are just three behind the Giants in the loss column.
“We’re not trying to just sink,” Lincecum said. “It’s not like anyone has given up by any means.”
It’s San Francisco’s offense that’s preventing a return trip to the postseason. The Giants have averaged 2.92 runs since the All-Star break - nearly 0.7 fewer than anyone else - and if Dana Eveland(notes) (1-0, 1.13 ERA) pitches anything like he did in his return to the majors, they could be in for more trouble.
Eveland, cast off by Pittsburgh last season after a brief but disastrous stint, was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque on Sept. 1 to face the team that released him.
His motivation was hard to miss in his first start in the majors since June 23, 2010. Eveland, 12-8 with a 4.38 ERA in the Pacific Coast League, improbably held the Pirates to a run over eight innings in a 6-4 victory.
“I took it as a challenge,” Eveland said of his stint in Triple-A. “I knew I needed to get it right, get back to where I was a couple of years ago. I won some games early for Toronto last year, so I knew I could still win. In fact, I know I’m better than I was last year.”
His next scheduled start was rained out at Washington, so he’ll go Saturday on eight days’ rest. Eveland is 9-11 with a 4.90 ERA lifetime when starting on four days’ rest, and 6-9 with a 6.29 ERA on five days or more.
He hasn’t faced the Giants since 2008, but he went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts that season.
Ryan Vogelsong(notes) (10-6, 2.62) probably feels like San Francisco’s offense is destined to be shut down any time he takes the hill. The All-Star right-hander has a 3.38 ERA over his last four starts after holding Arizona to two runs over 7 1-3 innings Sunday, but he’s lost all four after that 4-1 defeat.
The Giants have given Vogelsong a total of three runs of support in that stretch.
They gave him five runs July 18 against the Dodgers, his lone start in the rivalry this season. Vogelsong needed only one, though, holding Los Angeles to seven hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 5-0 victory.
With a win Saturday, the Dodgers would get back to .500 for the first time since they were 15-15 on May 2.