MIAMI -- The Giants and Dodgers don't like talking about the collision course they're on, but in this case you need to examine actions, not words.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly set up his second-half rotation so that All-Stars Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw will start in San Francisco during their three-game series July 25-27, along with No. 3 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. Mattingly told reporters the rotation was put together to give his stars rest over the break, but he admitted that "then you're just looking at the schedule, trying to match up."
As the second half kicks off, the longtime rivals are looking at more than just the schedule. It's officially Scoreboard Watching Season in the National League West, and it actually started before the division's top two teams headed for the break. Several times in the past two weeks, Giants players tuned clubhouse televisions to the Dodgers, or quietly asked reporters if they had a score update.
Nearly 100 games into the season, both sides can be alternately upset and relieved by what the standings show.
The Giants led the division by 9½ games before a lengthy skid began June 9, that lead evaporating in just 20 days. But even after dropping 7 of 13 after losing their lead in the West, the Giants trail the preseason favorite Dodgers by just one game.
"We have to look at our overall record right now," catcher Buster Posey said as he headed for a short vacation.
At 52-43, the Giants remain one of the best teams in baseball, even if they have been the worst over the past month. They're not just a game behind the Dodgers; they're a game away from having the best record in the National League. That provides plenty of hope for a group that views June as an aberration.
"Nobody is walking around feeling sorry for themselves after what happened," left-hander Madison Bumgarner said. "We know what we have to do."
It's pretty simple, really. The rotation got in a groove as the break approached, and while the Giants seek additional bullpen help, they're comfortable with Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and a seemingly refreshed Sergio Romo in the late innings.
A slumping lineup was most to blame for the June swoon. The Giants had a .717 team OPS and averaged 4.3 runs per game while going 42-21 through June 8. They are 10-22 since, averaging just three runs per game and posting a collective OPS of .630.
While the numbers are down across the board, the power outage is most glaring. The Giants hit 69 homers in the first 64 games but just 17 in the past 32. As much as manager Bruce Bochy doesn't want to rely on homers, his players -- who have taken to celebrating each dinger with a "Yes! Yes! Yes!" cheer -- seem to get an extra jolt every time a ball clears the wall. The Giants are 38-15 when they homer.
"We weren't going to keep up that (early) pace, and we all knew it," Bochy said. "But for it to just leave us there, that surprised us."
It also might have changed their approach. When the homers went away, coaches saw several players push harder to clear the wall, further deepening their hole.
"The homer does kind of change how you play the game," Bochy said. "We hit so many of them that you weren't thinking about hitting-and-running, scratching and clawing, because you had the long ball. Without the homers, we've got to get more consecutive hits, work the middle of the field more."
The focus on an improved approach is why Sunday's win was so pleasing for the Giants. They loaded the bases three times, clearing them twice. They kept the line moving until the big hit came. It reminded players of April and May.
"That's our game," Posey said. "Our game is being scrappy, and that's when we've had success. We scrap and get guys on and then guys get big hits. That's what we did in 2010 and 2012."
To win the division for the third time in five years, the Giants will have to scratch and claw their way through a rough post-break slate. They travel to the Eastern time zone four times over the next six weeks, playing 39 games on the road and just 28 at home in the second half. The Dodgers have a more even distribution, with 32 at home and 33 on the road.
The two teams left standing in the National League West will eye each other throughout that stretch, and they play at AT&T Park later this month and from Sept. 12-14, then at Dodger Stadium from Sept. 22-24.
Through highs and lows, injuries and slumps, the Giants and Dodgers haven't found a way to lose sight of each other through the season's first four months.
"It's what I thought it would be," Bochy said. "A tight race."
Giants (Madison Bumgarner 10-7) at Miami (Nathan Eovaldi 5-4), 4:10 p.m. CSNBA
N.L. WEST RACE
Team W L GB
Dodgers 54 43 --
Giants 52 43 1