Whereas the Los Angeles Dodgers limped into the All-Star break, the San Francisco Giants were riding high, owners of the best record in baseball at 57-33. They paced the National League West division by 6.5 games.
Despite their comfortable lead at the time, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said he expected a tight division race down the stretch of the season. Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager echoed a similar sentiment while appearing at his first All-Star Game.
Despite being without Clayton Kershaw until this month, and losing others to injury, the Dodgers not only closed the gap in the NL West, but overtook their rival for first place in the division.
Los Angeles owns the third-best record in the NL at 33-25 during the unofficial second half of the season. Conversely, San Francisco has gone 22-37 since the All-Star break, which is the worst mark in baseball.
Count Kershaw among those who is surprised by the Giants’ downward spiral, via Bill Plunkett of the OC Register:
“They were the best team in baseball in the first half. I think everyone is surprised,” Kershaw said of the Giants’ second-half tumble.
The Dodgers and Giants open a crucial three-game set Monday night at Dodger Stadium, with Kershaw and Bumgarner slated to start the series opener. Los Angeles enters play with a five-game lead in the division, and their magic number (any combination of Dodgers wins or Giants losses) down to nine.
The Giants are on pace to become the first team in Major League Baseball history to own the best record during the first half of a season and worst record during the second half. Their play also has them in danger of falling out of the postseason picture altogether.
The Giants currently have a one-game lead on the St. Louis Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot.