Sep 06

Dodgers throw down and run gauntlet

This pinch-hit Dodger Thoughts post is dedicated to Chuck Essegian.

Friday will be game one of the Dodgers intradivisional duel with the archrival Giants. It is a time when honor can be reclaimed. Or possibly lost. It’s also the beginning of a brutal stretch of games that may leave the team badly bruised and possibly out of playoff contention.

The word “gauntlet” when used in the sense of “throw down the gauntlet” refers to the medieval practice of knights throwing their gauntlet, a protective glove, on the ground to challenge some other knight to a duel of some kind. It comes from a French word gantelet which means “glove” and it’s related to the Spanish word for glove, guante. The Oxford English Dictionary ultimately believes it comes from Germanic languages.

The word “gauntlet” in “to run the gauntlet”, meaning “to run through a narrow passage of people who are ready to beat you up with ropes and clubs” comes from a Scandinavian word gantlope, which sort of means “lane course.” It is believed that the English saw Swedish sailors imposing the punishment of making people “run the gantlope” during the Thirty Years War and then corrupted the pronunciation.

Sometimes, people have tried to differentiate the two words by spelling one as “gantlet” and the other as “gauntlet,” but when you’re talking about words that describe objects or events that rarely happen in real life now, the proper spelling of a word is hard to find or defend.

The Giants begin the series Friday night with, to borrow a “Seinfeld” term, “hand.” The Giants are 4 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers, they are playing at home, and there isn’t a lot of season left. (24 games for the Dodgers, 25 for the Giants.)

However, for all the stumbling around the Dodgers have done, the Giants have been trying to match them misstep for misstep. The Giants burned through 24 pitchers in their three games at home with Arizona, including a record-tying 11 on Tuesday night. The DBacks scored 22 runs against the Giants. During the Dodgers last trip to the Bay Area, they dominated the Giants sweeping them by a combined score of 19-3. However, in the first series in San Francisco, the Giants swept by a combined score of 13-0.

On Friday, Josh Beckett will face Tim Lincecum in a pitching matchup that only a year or two ago would have been the subject of a 3000 word Bill Simmons ramble, but now it’s just a game between two guys who used to be big. (And the pictures have gotten larger, despite what you’ve been told.) The game will be shown nationally on the MLB Network for those outside of Los Angeles, but it should be with the Prime Ticket feed allowing everyone to enjoy Vin Scully calling a Dodgers-Giants game in a pennant race. This will be a 7:15 pm game.

Saturday’s game will be a daytime affair, starting at 1:05 pm. It will be on Fox, which means that if you are in the fortunate areas that get the game aired to them, you can enjoy the stylings of Matt Vasgersian and Tim McCarver, or you can … not see the game. Chris Capuano will start for the Dodgers, who has been the Dodgers shakiest starter recently.

Since Capuano overwhelmed the Marlins on August 12 (8 IP, 0 R, 10 K), he’s given up 18 runs in 23 1/3 IP in four starts. On the bright side, he’s only walked one batter in that stretch.

Matt Cain will start for the Giants. Cain beat the Dodgers in his last start against them on August 22 at Dodger Stadium. Since then, he’s made two more starts, both on the road, and both were no decisions against Houston and Chicago. In Cain’s only start against the Dodgers at AT&T Park, he had a no decision in a game on July 27 that the Dodgers ultimately won in 10 innings 5-3 on a Hanley Ramirez home run.

Sunday’s game will be a 5:10 pm start and it will be the ESPN Sunday Night game with Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser, and Terry Francona. Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers against Barry Zito.

The Dodgers will come out of San Francisco trailing the Giants by 1 1/2, 3 1/2, 5 1/2, or 7 1/2 games. If the final two figures are the ones that we see, then it’s time to start paying very close attention to how the St. Louis Cardinals are doing because the Dodgers will likely have no path to the playoffs other than the second wild card spot.

After this coming series, the Dodgers will be off Monday. In fact, the Dodgers are going to be off the next three Mondays. The only Monday game left on the schedule is Game 159 160 against the Giants on October 1 at Dodger Stadium.

On Tuesday, the Dodgers will start a two-game series at Arizona.  The DBacks have beaten the Dodgers 10 of 16 times. (Bonus note: The 1977 Clint Eastwood film, “The Gauntlet,” is set mostly in Phoenix.) Then, they come home for four games against the Cardinals, a series that may make or break the Dodgers season. Or maybe it won’t. Because on Tuesday,  September 18, the Dodgers start a 9-game, 10-day road trip that will see them starting off with three games against the current best team in baseball, Washington, followed by three games agains the second best team in baseball, Cincinnati. Then, a day off, and three games in San Diego, the team that has been playing about as well as anyone else in the NL West since the All-Star Break.

From September 7 through September 27, the Dodgers will be running a gauntlet against a group of opponents all of whom will be ready to thrown down the gauntlet at the same time. Someone is going to get hurt.