Roughed Up, NL West-style

There are many things I love about the way the NL West race is shaping up. The tie at the top. The charging Rockies terrifying the co-leaders with a 10-game winning streak. The three-game series between the Padres and Giants on the last weekend of the season. Jimenez, Latos, Lincecum…

As a close follower of AL East baseball, though, my favorite aspect of this race might just be the scores that look like the end of the first period of a hockey game. The AP writeup of today’s Giants’ win in San Diego says that the Giants “roughed up San Diego ace Mat Latos to win 6-1”.

Latos gave up five runs in four innings, indeed a subpar performance and by far his worst since spring, but I’m entertained by the idea that five runs get you “roughed up”. On Friday night, Clay Buchholz, then the AL ERA leader, gave up five runs in one inning plus. That gave the ERA lead to Felix Hernandez, the AL Cy Young frontrunner by all objective measures (though objective measures may not be enough). F Her promptly served up seven runs (four earned) on Saturday. The first three times Josh Beckett gave up five or more runs this season, the Red Sox came away with three wins.

I’m not saying the Padres should be happy with Latos’s performance, only that the term “roughed up” might be better reserved for, say, White Sox starter Lucas Herrell, who gave up six runs in the first inning to the lowly Royals on Sunday. The White Sox, naturally, would go on to win that game, 12-6. But this is the NL West. This is Petco Park, where the Giants and Padres traded 1-0 victories the last two nights, shares of the division lead hanging in the balance. This was two-time defending NL Cy Young Tim Lincecum against NL ERA leader Latos, who threw seven innings of four-hit ball and struck out ten his last time out, one day after missing a scheduled start with the flu. Any score higher than 2-1 would be akin to a two-goal soccer game.

The Padres have 20 games left. The Giants play 18 more. Here’s hoping that three-game series in San Francisco over the first three games of October means something. While both of them hit like the 1906 White Sox, it’s hard to imagine either of these teams falling apart over the next few weeks. Of course, it’s equally hard to imagine the Rockies fading away the way they’ve been playing (and the way we’ve grown accustomed to September baseball in Denver playing out).

I prefer the DH. I like the drama (sometimes) of AL teams with rabid fan bases acting as if the fate of the world hinges on Matt Guerrier’s 2-2 pitch to Paul Konerko. But this season, the drama is all in the National League. And what’s more dramatic than 1-0?

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