As the pennant races continue, Big League Stew is there to take a closer look at some of the biggest series down the stretch.
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
The situation: The two NL West rivals are getting together for their second-to-last series of the season, a three-game set at AT&T Park that holds huge implications for a playoff spot. While the Dodgers don't need a sweep to stay relevant in the race, they can't be swept themselves or probably even lose two of three. The Giants hold a 4.5-game lead in the division entering the series and Baseball Prospectus pegs their odds of winning the NL West at 90.8 percent. The Dodgers, who also trail the Cardinals for the second NL wild-card spot by 1.5 games, have an 8.8 percent chance of winning the division and 9.8 percent chance of making the postseason via wild card.
Previously on: The Giants lead the season series 7-5 after sweeping a three-game series at Dodger Stadium last month.
What's left: The two teams will finish their regular season with a three-game series at Dodger Stadium that starts Oct. 1.
For starters: Josh Beckett (1-1, 2.92) and Tim Lincecum will kick things off on Friday in a battle of starters who have disappointed in 2012. Meanwhile, Chris Capuano (11-10, 3.63) and Matt Cain (13-5, 2.98) will get the Fox slot on Saturday afternoon while Clayton Kershaw (12-8, 2.79) and Barry Zito (10-8, 4.51) cap things off for ESPN on Sunday night.
Super storylines• Is the Dodgers big run coming?: Even though the megatrade with Boston was still a few days away, Los Angeles was in a pretty good spot on the morning of Aug. 20. They held a half-game lead over San Francisco in the division and were about to welcome the Giants to Chavez Ravine for a three-game series. San Francisco's pitching, however, shut the Dodgers down and swept the set en route to their current 4.5-game lead. The Giants have gone 11-5 since the start of that series while the Dodgers have gone 6-10. If they haven't confronted the possibility of missing the playoffs after grabbing such huge headlines with ownership's big spending spree, they're at least at the brink.
• Timmy the Dodger slayer?: While Lincecum has posted the worst season of his career, he has been good — though not great — against the Dodgers. In three starts in 2012, Lincecum has compiled a 2-1 record with a 2.55 ERA in three starts and earned the win in the second game of the last series when he thew 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. Lincecum, who holds a 2.08 ERA over his last eight starts with Los Angeles, will be looking to record a big opening victory against Josh Beckett. The former Red Sox pitcher will be making his third start for Los Angeles and says he needs to "read up" on a Giants lineup that is largely unfamiliar to him.
• Dodgers power?: Los Angeles scored a total of only six runs the last time the two teams met and it'll have to take advantage of the Giants missing Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong (though missing the latter might be unfortunate, given how Vogelsong has struggled the past month). Adrian Gonzalez hasn't homered for the Dodgers since his first at-bat with the team and Matt Kemp has only hit one homer in his past 24 games, drawing the ire of his "fans" on Twitter. They'll need both to hit if they want their team in a good position come Monday morning.