NL West race shapes up: Champion Giants vs D-backs

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - 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 D-backs led the NL West on Thursday for the first time since June 24, 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.

Who would have thought the West would turn into a two-team race in early August?

“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 idle Giants (64-54) dropped a game behind Arizona after the Diamondbacks rallied to beat Houston 8-5 in 10 innings 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 Friday night.

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).”

This division could go down to the wire again. Everybody involved expects it.

Colorado can’t be counted out, but the third-place Rockies have had a rough go. The bankrupt Dodgers have endured a drama-filled year after Major League Baseball assumed control of the club’s operations in mid-April. And the last-place Padres are a far cry from the team that was eliminated from playoff contention in San Francisco on the season’s final day last fall _ no longer the challenger they were under the guidance of Towers and Bochy back in the day.

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