The San Francisco Giants got back two key contributors just in time for a critical road series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants and Dodgers begin a four-game set on Monday night, righty Kevin Gausman, who's been on the family medical emergency list, was activated in time to start the series opener. Also franchise catcher Buster Posey, who's been sidelined since July 4 with a thumb contusion, was activated off the injured list on Monday.
It wasn't all good news, however, as All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford was placed on the injured list because of an oblique injury. The Giants say it's a mild one and that he is likely to return in 10 to 14 days (via Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle).
Needless to say, Gausman and Posey are huge additions for the Giants. Posey remains a plus defender behind the plate, and this season he's enjoyed a major resurgence with the bat. Through 58 games, Posey's slashing .328/.421/.547 with 12 home runs and 31 walks. That's elite production for any player, let alone a primary catcher. As for Gausman, he's continued to flash the skills growth he showed last season in San Francisco. He's made 18 starts for the Giants in 2021, and over that span he's pitched to an MLB-leading 1.73 ERA with 133 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings against just 30 unintentional walks. Consider him to be squarely in the mix for NL Cy Young votes.
In Crawford going down, the Giants lose an excellent defender at a premium position along with the career year he's having on offense. Through 82 games, Crawford is hitting .286/.363/.546 (146 OPS+) with 18 homers, 58 RBI and even seven steals, which ties his career high.
It's a high-stakes series, to be sure. The Giants come in clinging to first-place in the hotly contested NL West. They lead the the Dodgers by a single game and the third-place Padres by five games. As for the SportsLine Projection System, it still sees the Dodgers as heavy favorites in the division. Coming into this series, SportsLine gives the Dodgers a 76.9 percent chance of winning the West, and the Giants check in at 22.4 percent. This four-game series gives each team an opportunity to nudge those odds in their favor.
In this series, the Giants plan to start, in order, Gausman, Alex Wood, Logan Webb, and Anthony DeSclafani, all of whom have been very good to excellent in 2021. The Dodgers, meantime, will start Tony Gonsolin in the opener and have Julio Urias and Walker Buehler lined up for the third game and fourth game, respectively. The Tuesday start they'll have to figure out because of their thinned-out rotation. Clayton Kershaw is on the Injured List with a forearm problem, and Trevor Bauer is on administrative leave pursuant to sexual assault allegations.
The Giants come in having gone just 3-6 against the Dodgers this season. In the near-term, however, they'll have a chance to flip that particularly important script, as starting Monday they'll play the Dodgers seven times in a span of 11 days. Maybe we'll have further clarity in the NL West after that point or, more likely, it will remain wonderfully muddled. Either way, these two ancient blood rivals will be central to the action.