If not for Clayton Kershaw putting together one of the best seasons for a pitcher in baseball history, Madison Bumgarner could be in the mix to win his first Cy Young Award.
He looks to tie Kershaw for the major league lead in victories Wednesday as the visiting San Francisco Giants face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the finale of a three-game set.
Kershaw's fantastic campaign has him in line to pick up his second straight and third overall Cy Young, and he's played a key role in helping the Los Angeles Dodgers take a three-game lead on Bumgarner's Giants in the division with 11 remaining.
San Francisco (83-68) snapped a three-game skid Tuesday as Buster Posey homered in a 2-1 victory. It gained a game in the West race as the Dodgers fell 10-4 at Colorado.
The Giants lead the wild-card standings, but catching the Dodgers certainly is on their minds. They'll face each other in a three-game series beginning Monday at Dodger Stadium.
''I'm not going to lie to you, I was just in the shower and in my mind I was thinking about (Dodgers second baseman) Dee Gordon, to be honest with you,'' said Tuesday's winning pitcher Jake Peavy, who will start the opener against Los Angeles. ''Isn't that crazy? Isn't that unbelievable? I was taking a shower thinking, 'How do we get Dee Gordon out?'''
Bumgarner (18-9, 2.91 ERA) has won five straight starts while posting a 1.80 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 35 innings. In a crucial contest against the Dodgers on Friday, he allowed three hits and struck out nine in seven innings of a 9-0 win.
The left-hander needs two more victories to become San Francisco's first 20-game winner since 1993, when John Burkett (22) and Bill Swift (21) each accomplished the feat. His 207 strikeouts are the most for a Giants lefty since the franchise relocated from New York in 1958.
"There are a lot of good pitchers in the National League this year, but I think he should be up there in the Cy Young voting," said shortstop Brandon Crawford, who drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly Tuesday. "He's done this all season."
Bumgarner is 2-1 with a 1.44 ERA in his last five starts against the Diamondbacks, but he's had a couple of tough outings against them this season. In his first start of 2014 he gave up four unearned runs in four innings of the Giants' 9-8 win March 31, and he allowed four runs and 10 hits in 6 1-3 innings of San Francisco's 8-4 victory July 13.
In between he gave up an unearned run and two hits in eight innings of a 4-1 win June 22 against the Diamondbacks (62-89), who had their three-game winning streak snapped with Tuesday's defeat.
Arizona was held to five hits as its Nos. 5-9 hitters went a combined 0 for 16.
The Diamondbacks will counter Bumgarner with rookie Andrew Chafin, who will be making just the second appearance of his major league career.
Chafin allowed three hits in five innings but didn't earn a decision in Arizona's 1-0 win over Cleveland on Aug. 13, then immediately was sent back to the minors following that start.
"It's going to be very exciting, regardless," the left-hander told MLB's official website. "Throwing at this level is just amazing. Definitely a lot less jitters. Now there's just: 'All right, go out and do my job. I know I can do it. Just another day on the ballfield.'"
The Giants have won eight of the last 10 meetings.