Presenting: your first place Arizona Diamondbacks

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Well, tied for first place, but they got the mojo.

The Dbacks have won four in a row and the Giants have dropped five straight.  The last two in each of those streaks came against the other, and now the defending World Series champs are deadlocked with Arizona.  I don’t necessarily believe in “statement games” or “statement series” — they seem like talk radio creations — but it’s worth noting that the Diamondbacks’ last trip to San Francisco resulted in a Giants sweep and the Dbacks dipping seven games under .500.  Since that sweep they are 46-27.

We all got warm fuzzies when the Pirates flirted with contending for a week or so.  The Diamondbacks weren’t expected to be any good this year either, yet here they are.  Contending.  Competing against a Giants team that has lost its gravity lately.

The calendar is just turning to August and there is still a lot of baseball to be played, but this Giants-Dbacks series feels like the 2011 pennant race making its formal introduction.

Report: Padres interested in Maikel Franco

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals
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The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.

Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.

Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.