There is only one major league team that has a better record than the San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers, of course.
Are the Giants for real? Can Buster Posey (.989 OPS) and Evan Longoria (.973 OPS) continue to be nourished by the fountain of youth? Can the San Francisco starting rotation maintain its 2.56 earned-run average?
And, if the Giants fade, can they foul up the Dodgers’ season anyway? The answer to that is yes, absolutely yes.
The Giants’ 12-7 record is nice, but Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs still project the Dodgers as the best team in baseball, the San Diego Padres as an elite team, and the Giants as a mediocre team.
The Padres moved one game above .500 on Thursday, with a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers. Manny Machado is hitting, as are Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and Trent Grisham, and Fernando Tatis Jr. is getting back into his swing.
But pitching wins, and the Padres planned to match the Dodgers in rotation depth. At the start of the season, the Dodgers and Padres each ran eight deep.
For the Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Trevor Bauer, Julio Urias, Dustin May, David Price, Tony Gonsolin and Josiah Gray. For the Padres: Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack, Adrian Morejon, Ryan Weathers and MacKenzie Gore.
Morejon lasted two games: Tommy John surgery, out for the season.
Lamet lasted one game. He left his season debut Wednesday after two innings, because of what the Padres said was forearm tightness.
Such a diagnosis often foreshadows Tommy John surgery. Lamet, who had Tommy John surgery in 2018, had platelet-rich plasma treatment last fall, in the hope he could avoid a second surgery.
Lamet finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting last year, behind Trevor Bauer, Darvish and Jacob deGrom.
Padres manager Jayce Tingler said that Lamet felt “very, very good” Thursday. An ultrasound revealed no unusual inflammation, Tingler said, and an MRI was not scheduled. Instead, Lamet will try to throw Friday, and the Padres will go from there.
“If everything goes well, we’ll shoot for him to make the start after the 10 days are up,” Tingler said.
The Angels tried plasma therapy with four pitchers: Griffin Canning, Andrew Heaney, Shohei Ohtani and Garrett Richards. All but Canning ended up needing Tommy John surgery anyway.
Whether Lamet returns for the rest of the season, or for a part of it, the Padres could need to trade for starting pitching, even after a winter in which they traded for Darvish, Snell and Musgrove.
They could find an arm in San Francisco.
The Giants feature five starting pitchers eligible for free agency this fall: Johnny Cueto, Anthony DeSclafani, Kevin Gausman, Aaron Sanchez and old friend Alex Wood. Gausman has the highest ERA of the five, at 2.45.
Even after their winter shopping, the Padres’ minor league system ranks sixth among the 30 teams, according to Baseball America.
The Giants’ president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, is reshaping his current team in the mold of the Dodgers, his former team: depth, relentless depth. If the Giants fall back into the pack, Zaidi might focus on the Padres as an ideal trade match: some of your depth, please, for two months of one of my veteran starters.
The Giants could give the Dodgers a hard time this season by hanging tough in the NL West. Or, the Giants could give the Dodgers a hard time by giving the Padres a starting pitcher.
Now that is a rivalry.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.