August 12, 2011 in Sports

Two-team race in N.L. West

D-backs take advantage of Giants’ recent downturn

SAN FRANCISCO – Not so long ago, Kevin Towers and Bruce Bochy were working together to build a winner in San Diego.

Now, Towers is the first-year general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks and trying mightily to dethrone Bochy and the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

“I want to somehow be ahead of Boch,” Towers said with a chuckle during his team’s recent visit to AT&T Park. “I don’t like being on his bumper.”

These two clubs could very well go back and forth the rest of the way.

The Diamondbacks took the National League West lead Wednesday night for the first time since June 24. They are on top in a year when many hardly considered them contenders. Even Towers himself acknowledged at the start of spring training his team would have to surprise with pitching in a division dominated by talented arms or Arizona would fall out of the running in a hurry.

Bochy’s Giants are in their worst funk of the year, and Arizona would like nothing more than to take advantage.

“We’ll bounce back. We’ve got a lot of heart and a lot of fight in our team,” San Francisco’s Cody Ross said. “Nobody in here has forgotten that. Other people might have but we don’t.”

The Giants (64-54), idle on Thursday, are one game behind Arizona after the Diamondbacks defeated Houston 8-5 in 10 innings on Thursday night. San Francisco, having lost 10 of 13 after a 3-7 homestand, traveled to Florida to kick off a 10-game road trip tonight.

These D-backs sure seem to have legitimate staying power.

“No question they deserve to be in the position they are. We really take them very seriously,” Giants GM Brian Sabean said. “They’ve done a nice job all around. They’re a well-rounded team, especially now.”

Towers acquired pitchers Jason Marquis and Brad Ziegler at last month’s trade deadline to bolster an already reliable staff. Whether that’s enough when it comes down to it, he’s not sure.

“We’ll see,” Towers said. “I knew we’d have a chance (if we pitched well).”

The Giants clinched their first division title since 2003 last year in Bochy’s fourth year as manager to end a six-year playoff drought, then went on to capture an improbable World Series title.

They came through their problems last August, so many still figure it’s the Giants division to lose.

Arizona was swept in San Francisco May 10-12, all three losses by one run. That weekend was tough to swallow, but also helped light a fire in Towers’ team.

“I felt we were good back then but we were losing those games by one run,” said 14-game winner Ian Kennedy, who takes the ball tonight to open a series against the Mets at Chase Field. “I think they put a great team together. There are some teams that are more talented, but we play well together. …

“It’s about talent and chemistry. Pitching has a lot to do with it. That’s why we were out of it last year – our starters weren’t very good and our bullpen wasn’t very good,” Kennedy said.

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