Things about to get interesting in the NL West

As Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said, "It's starting to get late early."

You can probably apply that to the defending world champion San Francisco Giants, who now find themselves six games back of the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West

Although, he'll never admit it, Giants general manager Brian Sabean may have given his version of a concession speech on Wednesday when he designated veterans Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand for assignment.

"Everybody has a tremendous amount of respect for both guys," outfielder Pat Burrell said. "For whatever reason, it just wasn't working. This team needed some changes."

So, was that a white flag waving in the Bay Area, or was this just a way to light a fire under a team that is starting to become one of the more bigger disappointments in the National League?

It's probably a little bit of both, but this much is clear the Giants better kick it into another gear soon or they will become just another one and done World Series champion and the first to miss the playoffs the year after a title since the St. Louis Cardinals missed the postseason in 2007.

"Well, we're pushing a big rock uphill. We know that," said Sabean. "We're running out of games. We've all been involved in seasons that have turned on a dime. Ninety-eight's an example. Last year was an example. You never know what's going to happen during the last month of the season. Strange things happen."

And there's no time like the present to turn it around, as the Diamondbacks visit AT&T Park this weekend for a three-game series.

A month and a half ago it was almost a fait accompli that San Francisco would come out of the West, especially after the team addressed their biggest need at the trade deadline, acquiring the best bat on the market in outfielder Carlos Beltran.

Well things haven't actually gone as planned since that deal. For one Beltran is hitting a mere .260 since the deal, has knocked in all of four runs, and has already served a stint on the disabled list.

If you had polled someone prior to the year who would be San Francisco's biggest obstacle in the NL West, how many people would have said the Arizona Diamondbacks?

Kirk Gibson's club were a nice little story in the first half of the season, but most people felt it was just a matter of time before the Giants separated themselves from the pack in a weak NL West. But, the Diamondbacks didn't go away and they got everyone's attention when they took two of three from the champs in San Francisco in early August.

The Diamondbacks finally wrestled the top spot in the division from the Giants a week later and thanks to a terrific 16-6 stretch, they are starting to run away with it.

Of course, the Giants have made it easy on them lately, as they produced just an awful month of August that saw them lose 21 of 31 games, while hitting a lackluster .235 to go along with a less than .300 on-base percentage, while scoring just 2.7 runs-per-game.

"There's still hope, and there's still effort", Sabean added. "But we are down a bit. Short of a winning streak, we're going to have to win as many series or more series than they do, and that might still not be enough because of the hole we've dug."

So is Arizona winning the division right now, or are the Giants just losing it?

Well, Arizona has won nine straight games. They have a legitimate ace and Cy Young Award candidate in Ian Kennedy. And if Justin Upton plays like the superstar he is in September and gets this team to the playoffs he could be a bona fide MVP sleeper.

By the way if you want an early taste of a playoff atmosphere you may want to try and catch Saturday's contest between these teams, as Kennedy goes for his NL-leading 18th win against two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. There may not be a lot of pennant race baseball this September, but it won't get much better than that on Saturday.

"I'm excited," Arizona outfielder Chris Young said. "It's going to be fun -- every time we've played the Giants this year, it's been fun. It's fun playing there. There's always a lot of energy in the air, especially when we go to [San Francisco]. It's always a sold-out game."

These teams will meet once again in Arizona on the season's final weekend, but this series will go along way in determining if that set will even mean anything.

But, then again, "It's not over until it's over."