Dodgers May Put End to Giants’ Nightmare in Three-Game Series
The National League West may be won in Candlestick Park this weekend, but the San Francisco Giants will only be disgruntled bystanders.
In a nightmare come true for the Giants and their fans, the Dodgers will arrive in town with as many as three chances beginning tonight to take the divisional title back to Los Angeles.
It’s not the ending envisioned by General Manager Al Rosen, who predicted the Giants would go all the way this year.
The team Manager Roger Craig called the best in baseball, during spring training, will finish an also-ran. San Francisco was formally eliminated with Thursday’s 3-1 loss in Cincinnati.
The “no repeat” syndrome has struck again. The Giants are the 10th straight NL West club, dating back to the ’78 Dodgers, who have failed to defend their title.
A more obvious culprit in the decline from 90-72 last year to 79-74 and an 11-game deficit this season is the rash of injuries to the pitching staff.
Only Rick Reuschel (19-9) of the opening-week rotation has not spent time on the disabled list. Dave Dravecky, Mike LaCoss, Mike Krukow--all of whom underwent surgery--and Kelly Downs won only 29 victories among them before succumbing to various ailments.
Terry Mulholland, impressive after being called on as a regular starter, and Joe Price also were disabled. Relievers Don Robinson and Atlee Hammaker had to be put in the rotation, weakening the bullpen.
Craig doesn’t place blame on the players or coaching staff for the slide.
“If those pitchers who are not here today couldn’t have won those 11 games, I’m a monkey’s uncle,” he told reporters in Cincinnati.
“I’ll say this, we never quit. We battled.”
The Giants hung on the fringes of the pennant race for much of the year behind Reuschel and the hitting of Will Clark (a league-high 105 runs batted to go with 28 home runs) and newly acquired Brett Butler (.291 and a league-high 109 runs).
In early July they won five in a row and moved into second place at 46-39, just 2 1/2 games in back of the Dodgers, at the All-Star break. Then they fell to eight games out in less than a week by losing five straight in Pittsburgh and Chicago while Los Angeles started a road trip 6-0 and boosted the lead back to eight.
The division race tightened when the Dodgers cooled off. But the Giants, even while staying within 2 1/2 games as late as Aug. 11, didn’t have the pitching depth to withstand a hitting slump. And slump they did, going 12 games and 119 innings without a homer and hitting .185 on a 2-7 East Coast road trip that effectively ended their season by Labor Day.
Aside from Clark and Kevin Mitchell, who has hit 18 homers with 76 RBIs despite knee problems, the Giants have been crippled by a lack of power.
“We could have beat somebody 1-0 or 2-1, but we’ve lost those games,” Craig said.
Home runs have tumbled from a league-high 205 a year ago to 107 through Thursday. Nine players were in double figures in that category a year ago, only three this year.
Candy Maldonado lost his pop and his starting outfield job, dropping from 20 homers and a .292 average to 11 and .254. Jeffrey Leonard was traded to Milwaukee for backup infielder Ernest Riles. Chili Davis left via free agency for the California Angels. Bob Brenly has hit only five home runs. Mike Aldrete, counted on for average rather than clout in left field, has hit only .274 and knocked in just 49 runs to go with his three homers.