The Giants have almost caught the Dodgers, and now Tim Lincecum gets the ball

This is one of those special little moments in a regular season. One of the reasons we love this game so much. On Opening Day, many of us believed the Giants and Diamondbacks would fight it out for the National League West. Scouts who’d seen the Dodgers this spring warned us not to overlook them, but when you looked at rotations and lineups, the Giants and Diamondbacks seemed to be better.

Lo and behold, the Dodgers sprinted out of the gate. They were 9-1 and then they were 24-11 and then they were 30-13. At one point, it was easy to see Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw sweeping the MVP and Cy Young Awards. The Dodgers were getting productivity from places they weren’t supposed to get it, but the point is they were getting it.

Meanwhile, the Giants started slowly. So did the Diamondbacks. Neither could find any consistency. Tim Lincecum struggled like he’d never struggled before. Bruce Bochy shuffled his lineup constantly looked for a combination that worked.

Look where we are now. The Dodgers have lost seven of eight, and the Giants have gotten hot and closed the gap in the National League West to a single game. Now Lincecum gets the ball with a chance for the Giants to tie the Dodgers. Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito have opened the series with terrific games, and the Dodgers haven’t scored a run since Sunday. (Vogelsong is 4-2 with a 1.29 ERA in eight home starts.)

Vogelsong beat Kershaw on Tuesday night for the second time this season, and the Giants have thrown back-to-back shutouts at the Dodgers in consecutive games for the first time since 2002. Melky Cabrera hit his seventh homer and raised his batting average to .352. Fifty-five of the Giants’ 75 games have been decided by three runs or less.

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