Diamond Digest: Baseball’s top story lines this week

Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers are in the driver’s seat in the National League West.
Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers are in the driver’s seat in the National League West. The Associated Press

Here are five interesting stories in baseball this week:

Fade to Orange and Black?

The Giants make what is likely their last stand against the Dodgers, as they start a three-game series with their rival on Monday in Los Angeles. The Dodgers hold a five-game lead in the National League West with 13 games to go, so anything less than a sweep simply won’t do. The series starts with the classic matchup of Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner (14-9, 2.66 ERA) vs. three-time Cy Young Award winner and fellow left-hander Clayton Kershaw (11-3, 1.81). It will be the 11th time they have met. Kershaw is making his third start since returning from the disabled list. He’s 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA over eight innings since coming back, averaging 65 pitches in two starts. Tuesday’s matchup is another good one, as right-hander Johnny Cueto (16-5, 2.86) of the Giants faces left-hander Rich Hill (3-1, 1.48), who blanked the Giants for six innings on Aug. 24 and has been sensational since coming over from the A’s. The final matchup of the series is nothing to turn away from: Left-hander Matt Moore (4-4, 4.01) of the Giants throws against right-hander Kenta Maeda (15-9, 3.24). The teams play three more times to close out the season, but face it, it is do or die time for the Giants in the N.L. West.

A three-team race for N.L. wild card

If the season had ended Sunday, the Giants would have been the No. 2 N.L. wild card and would have had to fly to New York to face the Mets. San Francisco concluded its four-game series with the Cardinals on Sunday with a one-game lead over St. Louis. They held a five-game lead on Miami and Pittsburgh. They blew a huge opportunity to put some space between them and the Cardinals when Santiago Casilla coughed up another save on Saturday in a 3-2 loss. Casilla has blown nine saves this season, but he is not the only Giants reliever to blame. The other top offenders: Hunter Strickland and Cory Gearrin have blown four each; Josh Osich has blown three and Javier Lopez and George Kontos have blown two. The Mets are running hot right now, having won seven of 10. The Giants and Cardinals, meanwhile, are 5-5 in their last 10 games. Who wants it more? Tune in to find out.

Logjam in A.L. wild-card race

The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays are on the outside looking in in the American League East race (the Orioles trail Boston by three, Toronto trails by four), but they are 1-2 in the wild-card chase. Baltimore opens play Monday with a one-game lead on Toronto. Detroit and Seattle are two-games behind Toronto, with Houston three back and the New York Yankees four out. The Orioles go head-to-head with Boston for four at home starting Monday. “I know our guys will embrace the competition and the opportunity that they’ve earned to (win) for our city late in the year,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said of the series. Toronto has three at Seattle starting Monday. Detroit has a three-game set with Minnesota starting Tuesday. This thing is going down to the wire.

Davis delivering for the Green and Gold

Khris Davis is having a monster season for the Oakland A’s. He hit two home runs in Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Rangers in Arlington, Texas, bringing his season total to 40. “I told him 45 was more impressive than 40,” manager Bob Melvin said. The last member of the A’s to hit the 40 mark was Jason Giambi, who hit 43 in 2000. Davis has 10 homers in 15 games against Texas, breaking Oakland’s single-season franchise record for homers against the Rangers. Reggie Jackson had nine in 1974. “I feel comfortable against their guys. The numbers don’t lie, and I like hitting off them,” Davis said. The A’s, meanwhile have won six of seven. Apparently, nobody told the A’s they were out of it.

Can the Cubs hit the century mark?

The Chicago Cubs have 13 games left and 94 wins. Simple math tells us they need six to reach 100 victories for the season. “It’s a pretty neat number. I’ve never done that before,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who won 97 in 2008 with Tampa Bay and last year with Chicago. The smart money says they will reach the milestone. They have six games remaining against the lowly Cincinnati Reds, three against the Cardinals and four against the Pirates.

Compiled by Chris La Marr with information from The Associated Press