MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Sizing up Dodgers, Giants ahead of key series

Los Angeles comes into home set leading NL West by one game

Sizing up Dodgers, Giants ahead of key series

This is the way the Dodgers should send Vin Scully out. They're fighting with the Giants for a title, just like they did in their great race in 1951.

That was Scully's second year working alongside Red Barber in Brooklyn, and it ended with heartbreak for the Dodgers when Bobby Thomson hit "The Shot Heard Round the World" off Ralph Branca. Who knows what this year's back-and-forth race for the National League West holds.

With six weeks left in the season, Los Angeles is one game ahead of San Francisco in the division, and the two rivals meet nine times, beginning with a three-game series at Dodger Stadium from Tuesday-Thursday.

This is an even-numbered year, of course, and that means the Giants are expecting to find a way to battle their way to the World Series, no matter who stands in their way. Yet it's the Dodgers who have a chance to win their fourth consecutive division title, this time under rookie manager Dave Roberts.

Scully's 67-year career in the broadcast booth will end when Los Angeles' season is over. Here's a look at how the teams match up:

Rotation
While the Dodgers were seriously improvising since long before Clayton Kershaw's back started acting up, the Giants haven't had much about which to complain. They not only have had Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija lined up since Opening Day, but they added lefty Matt Moore at the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Bumgarner's dual-threat effort

This feels like a big advantage for San Francisco, but it hasn't really been due to the work of Los Angeles starters Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir. Both teams have depth issues, but Deadline acquisition Rich Hill will finally make his first start for the Dodgers on Wednesday. Kershaw, the ultimate trump card, is also working his way back toward the mound, and he is fully capable of making a handful of difference-making starts.

Edge: Giants, but not by as much as you'd think.

Bullpen
You know the old narrative? The one about Los Angeles not being able to get leads to Kenley Jansen? That isn't really holding. Joe Blanton, Pedro Baez and Adam Liberatore have turned the bullpen into a strength for Roberts. All bets are off if Jansen bolts as a free agent after the season, but that's beside the point.

Baez gets a double play in 8th

Unfortunately for San Francisco, another narrative not holding is the one about the strength of its 'pen. It has been a mess all season, with only the Marlins and the White Sox having more blown saves. Bruce Bochy has gone to Jake Peavy in some big spots, and that's not a great sign. Hunter Strickland and Derek Law both have great stuff, but can they be trusted?

Edge: Dodgers, surprisingly by a lot.

Getting runners on base
There's not a lot of difference between these lineups when you look with a long view, but looking since the All-Star break, it's clear the Giants are in trouble.

They've slowed down scoring runs (3.9 per game in their past 34 games), in large part because they haven't been getting runners on. Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence and Buster Posey were all in the NL's top 30 in on-base percentage before the break, but only Posey has remained. The hamstring injury that forced Pence to have surgery stopped the good thing that the club had going, and it hasn't gotten it back.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have been creating more traffic on the bases recently. Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal, Howie Kendrick and Corey Seager are combining to get on base about 40 percent of the time since the All-Star break.

Seager extends hitting streak

Edge: Dodgers.

Driving 'em in
Where have you gone, Willie McCovey? The Giants have hit more home runs (101) than only the Braves this season (85), with only 26 since the break.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers mashed seven homers on Monday -- the most by any team in a game this season -- to bring their season total to 143. After a slow start, Justin Turner has hit 20 of his 23 homers since June 1, and Seager walloped his 22nd homer on Monday, tying Glenn Wright's 1930 mark for the most homers in a season by a Dodgers shortstop.

Turner's three-run smash

Edge: Dodgers, and again, it's big.

Picking it
Both teams are very solid in the field. But the metrics say the Dodgers are the better team, with fielding that trends toward the exception. Only the Cubs and Blue Jays are better in defensive efficiency, as measured by Baseball Prospectus.

Believe it or not, the supposedly one-dimensional Turner is the Dodgers' best fielder, when measured in terms of Defensive Runs Saved. He's played more innings this year than in 2015, which has helped, but the club's biggest improvement lies in getting full seasons from a middle infield of Seager and Utley after going primarily with Jimmy Rollins and Kendrick (now a left fielder) a year ago. Pederson has been an asset in center too.

Brandon Crawford and Posey are both NL Gold Glove Award-caliber defenders for the Giants at critical positions (at +17 DRS, Crawford is second in the Majors to White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton).

Crawford's diving stop

Edge: Dodgers, who are one of only a handful of MLB teams who would get this edge over the Giants.

Remaining schedule
Neither team has a tough schedule left, which could help the eventual division runner-up advance to the NL Wild Card Game. San Francisco gets to play Atlanta for three games, but also has to go to Wrigley Field for four against Chicago (which goes to Dodger Stadium for three games this weekend).

The Dodgers have two more games left against the D-backs than the Giants, and they will be the host for two of the three remaining head-to-head series between the NL West leaders. That said, if the race comes down to the season-ending Los Angeles-San Francisco series, that one will be at AT&T Park.

Edge: None.

Fatigue factor
Both of these are among the oldest teams in the Major Leagues, so you know the trainers and conditioning guys will be busy in September. One unknown is how Maeda will handle the end of his first season in a five-man rotation. But credit Roberts for doing a good job in limiting his workload, as the 28-year-old Maeda projects to work fewer than 200 innings, a level he reached four times for the Hiroshima Carp.

Edge: Giants, because they have Bumgarner (and many others who know the drill), along with Bochy's understanding of how to wring the most from his roster.

Overall
Our analysis calls it for the Dodgers, but you know the Giants will keep it close until the end.

Phil Rogers is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.