Even if you count the Rockies as now basically out of the National League West -- the standings say they're in serious trouble, their recent history says who knows? -- the Giants' three games this weekend at Coors Field are a potentially huge obstacle to San Francisco's chances of winning the division.
Despite what happened Thursday at Wrigley Field (a nine-run inning, a 13-0 win), the Giants' path to first place in the West has been built almost totally on pitching. Including Thursday, they've now gone 17 games since they last allowed four runs, a streak that according to the Elias Sports Bureau is the longest by any team in a single season since the 1917 White Sox went 20 games in a row.
Now they go to Coors Field, where the Rockies have scored four or more in 19 of their last 21 games, and where the home team hits so well that some Giants apparently think the Rockies have been monkeying with the humidor process .
Since Coors Field opened in 1995, only five teams have gone through an entire three-game series without ever allowing four runs. All five of those series have come in the humidor era (which began in 2002), but it still comes down to one series a season -- and it hasn't happened yet this year.
And the Giants, despite all their pitching and despite three trips a year to Colorado, have never done it.
Maybe that's why the Giants haven't won a season series at Coors since 2005. They're 2-4 in the first six games this year, so they'd need a sweep to win this season series.
Given the Rockies' collapse on the road this week -- they couldn't hold a 6-1 lead Sunday in Los Angeles, then got swept in three games in Arizona -- the Giants don't necessarily need a sweep this weekend. Their lead over the Padres is only a half-game, but San Diego also faces a potentially tough series, at home against the Reds.
Besides, the Giants' head-to-head showdown with the Padres next weekend will be at AT&T Park, where the Giants have allowed just 16 runs in their last nine games.
On to 3 to watch:
1. Tim Lincecum hasn't won at Coors Field since May 20, 2008. Then again, Lincecum hadn't won anywhere for a month before his 2-1 win over the Rockies on Sept. 1 in San Francisco. He's been very good the entire month, and maybe that means he'll win at Coors, too, when he opens the series in Giants at Rockies, Friday night (8:10 ET) at Coors Field . While the Giants are 0-4 in Lincecum's last four starts in Colorado, he hasn't been awful, with a 4.32 ERA in that span.
2. The Reds enter the weekend with a magic number of 3, and that means the soonest they could clinch their first division title in 15 years is in Reds at Padres, Saturday afternoon (4:05 ET) at Petco Park . That would take a little cooperation from the second-place Cardinals, but all the Cardinals have been doing recently is cooperating. As Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse pointed out on Twitter, the Cards are 9-17 since Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols attended Glenn Beck's rally in Washington.
3. The biggest advantage the Braves have in the National League wild-card race is that the Giants and Padres play each other next weekend. That means for three of the remaining 10 days on the schedule, either the Giants or the Padres is guaranteed to lose (and that the team that wins could win the division and not affect the Braves' wild-card chances at all). For it to be an advantage, though, the Braves need to win. They need to do to the Nationals this weekend what they did to the Mets last weekend, and that means they need to beat Livan Hernandez in Braves at Nationals, Sunday afternoon (1:35 ET) at Nationals Park . Hernandez threw eight shutout innings in a 6-0 win over the Braves last weekend in Atlanta, and he's 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA in four starts against the Braves this year. The Braves starter Sunday, they hope is Jair Jurrjens, who missed his Monday start in Philadelphia with a knee problem. As manager Bobby Cox said, "He'd better be able to pitch." Sunday is also the Braves' final regular-season road game, which means it's the final time an opposing team will pay tribute to Cox, who is retiring at the end of the season. The best gifts he has received so far: a No. 6 from the scoreboard at Wrigley Field, a set of wine glasses with all the NL team logos from the Reds, and many checks to support his charity helping homeless veterans. Cox entered the weekend with 2,499 wins in 4,499 career games.