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Murph: Kershaw’s return looms as X-factor in Giants-Dodgers race



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Ran into KNBR.com majordomo Rael Enteen today. He asked a simple question.

“How you feeling about the Giants on September 1st?”

Rael. Always asking the tough questions.

The short answer is: I was feeling a lot better about the Giants on Sept. 1st, before L.A. Dodger Andrew Tolles swung his bat in Colorado in the 9th inning on Aug. 31.

Tolles’ game-winning, comeback-creating, grand slam in Denver, and the ensuing mosh pit of jubilation it released in the Dodgers’ dugout, has slowed my Sept. 1st roll.

But only momentarily!

After all, as Hunter Pence told myself and Paulie Mac a few days back on KNBR: “Just setting you guys up for the drama. Come on.”

There is a symmetry to the race from here on out. The Giants have an even 30 games, while the Dodgers have 29. After Thursday in Chicago, both teams have 29 left. Moreoever, they will match each other day-for-day until the season finale Oct. 2, Dodgers at AT&T.

The Giants’ two off days in September are Sept. 8 and Sept.26.

The Dodgers’ two off days in September are Sept. 8 and Sept. 26.

There will be no more cumbersome “half-games” in the discussion from Friday onward.

In the final 29, the Giants will play 16 on the road, 13 at home, and endure a 10-game road trip.

In the final 29, the Dodgers will play 16 on the road, 13 at home and endure a 10-game road trip.

As brutal as four at Wrigley and three at Colorado sound for the Giants in the next week, the Dodgers aren’t putting on the roller blades and cruising down Venice Beach. They have three at Miami, against a playoff-caliber Marlins team, and three at Yankee Stadium, where the Fightin’ Gary Sanchezes are making an unlikely wild card push.

In other words. this thing is darn near flat-footed. Except for that nettlesome Andrew Tolles swing.

There is zero question that the Giants have the superior starting arms. Madison Bumgarner is set to star in the role of Paul Bunyan. Johnny Cueto, subtracting that curious fifth inning against Arizona on Tuesday, is the guy you want at No. 2. Matt Moore is turning every day he starts into a ‘Matty Moore Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Day of Choice’, as we like to say on the ‘Murph and Mac’ show. And Jeff (Have You Seen My Knuckle Curve? It’s Lovely) Samardzija has the chance to reach into his Notre Dame legacy and summon his big-game past in September.

The Giants’ only problem spot is the fifth spot, and it’s a problem, for sure.

You don’t think the Dodgers would trade rotations right now? The Dodgers’ starting rotation is Kenta Maeda and the TBAs.

Who do you want? Teen sensation Julio Urias? He’s set to reach his innings limit and head to the ‘pen. Rich Hill? He scratched his last start due to “heat and tenderness” with his ongoing blister. Bud Norris? Good Bay Area kid, but, you know. Scott Kazmir? Yeah, he’s due back, but he’s got a bum neck. Brett Anderson? Yeah, he’s due back, but he’s talking blisters with Rich Hill in the hot tub.

Clayton Kershaw?

Well, there. Now you’ve just stopped me in my tracks.

If, as expected, Kershaw returns to the fold, and gets two starts against the Giants in the final week . . . well, then . . . well, uh . . . well, geez . . .

Then, when KNBR.com majordomo Rael Enteen asks me: “How you feeling about the Giants on Sept. 1st?”, my answer might skew more towards: “Iffy, buddy. Iffy.”