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The San Francisco Giants are in first place. I’m as surprised as you are. You’re as surprised as they are.

Don’t expect it to last. Frisco has too many holes and too many fragile body parts to make it work long-term. There’s still a faint hope that Barry Bonds will get indicted by someone or other, perhaps not soon enough to keep him from breaking Henry Aaron’s home run record, but maybe in time to see his team lose a bleep-load of games. And those consecutive saves by Giants closer Armando Benitez in April will surely become alarmingly bad blown saves in September. Trust me.

But here we are at end of April, and the Giants are in first. Face it. Los Angeles is percentage points behind and riding a four-game losing streak as they hit town to play the Padres, a game back in third, tonight.

A note of preparation however – the Arizona Diamondbacks are a minor winning streak away from the top spot as well. And the Colorado Rockies aren’t as bad as the consensus. They’ll make a run too.

On to the important things: It’s L.A vs. San Diego. Here’s what to look from the Dodgers. Mark Hendrickson goes tonight, fresh from another session or two with his sports psychologist. Sounds crazy, but it’s working for the big guy (at 6’ 9” and a former NBA player, Hendrickson is the tallest pitcher in Dodgers history).

Brett Tomko makes the start in Game 2, and he’s as consistent as he’s ever been, which is to say he’s inconsistent. He’s as liable to spin a gem in Petco Saturday as he is to exit early. Who knows? Derek Lowe goes Sunday.

Both the Dodgers and Padres are living on good to very good pitching, and just enough hitting, sort of. The Dodgers, with 12 homers, have even less power than the Padres, who have 22. The Dodgers have a, to-say-the-least, struggling third baseman in Wilson Betemit, who has his batting average up to .136. Sound familiar?

Jeff Kent is hitting .342, with just a single homer, and at 39 is making all the plays at second base. Luis Gonzalez, of Arizona fame and also 39, is hitting .297 and not making all the plays in left field. Juan Pierre is the worst defensive center fielder you’ll ever see. Nomar Garciaparra is hitting 5-something with runners in scoring position, and leads the team in RBIs with 17.

Russell Martin is essentially God behind the plate in Los Angeles. The pitchers love him, he plays hard day in and day out, is hitting .338 with 15 RBIs, and will probably be the first Dodger captain in decades by this time next season.

And nothing boggles the mind more than the fact that current Padres assistant GM, Paul DePodesta, when running things in L.A., gave up Shawn Green and 10 million bucks for a pedestrian catcher named Dioner Navarro, when he had Martin waiting in the minors. How DePo could watch Martin play for two or three days in Jacksonville and not know he had something special is just astounding.

While DePodesta once said he’d like “to have eight more Milton Bradleys,” it’s Russell Martin he’ll never live down.


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