The rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants is widely considered one of the best in baseball, and perhaps in all of sports. But the rivalry has never seen anything quite like the division race that has unfolded this season.
With six games left in the campaign, both the Dodgers and Giants have reached the 100-wins mark, but only one club will win the National League West. The other team will have to test its dominance in the NL Wild Card Game, likely against a Cardinals team that has won 16 consecutive games and has a magic number of one to clinch the spot.
As both teams head into Monday’s off-day, the Giants (102-54) hold a two-game lead over the Dodgers (100-56) in the NL West race. Here’s everything you need to know heading into the final six games.
What’s at stake?
Giants: The Giants have already clinched their first postseason berth since 2016, but they remain on the hunt for their first NL West title in nine years. The winner of the division is also likely to secure the No. 1 seed and clinch home-field advantage for the entirety of the playoffs. Getting there might require a franchise record in wins for the Giants, as they are only four shy of matching the mark set by the 1904 club (106) with six games left to go.
Dodgers: The Dodgers have already clinched their ninth consecutive postseason berth and can do no worse than hosting the NL Wild Card Game. They’re looking to win a ninth consecutive NL West title.
What’s left on the schedule?
Giants: The Giants will close out their regular-season slate with a six-game homestand against the D-backs and Padres at Oracle Park, where they’ve gone 49-26 this year. San Francisco has thrashed Arizona (14-2) this season, but it has had a tougher time against San Diego (9-7), which has faded from contention but will still have an opportunity to influence the outcome of the division race.
It’s worth noting that the Giants entered the final weekend of the 2020 season firmly in control of their own destiny, but they ended up falling one win shy of a playoff berth after ending their year with three consecutive losses to the Padres.
Dodgers: The Dodgers will also close out the regular season with a six-game homestand. Los Angeles will host the Padres from Tuesday through Thursday and will wrap the regular season up with a three-game series against the Brewers, who clinched the NL Central on Sunday. The Dodgers struggled against the Padres earlier this season, but they swept the last two series. Milwaukee took three of four against the Dodgers back in May.
How do the rotations line up?
Giants: The Giants will go with Logan Webb and Alex Wood in their first two games against the D-backs, but they could rearrange their rotation over the final weekend of the regular season to set up their pitching for whatever postseason scenarios might be on the table. As of right now, Kevin Gausman appears to be lined up to start a possible NL Wild Card Game on Oct. 6.
Dodgers: The Dodgers will start Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer and Tony Gonsolin, in that order, against the Padres. Both Buehler and Scherzer will be facing the Padres for a fifth time this season, while it’ll be Gonsolin's first start against San Diego. Over the weekend, the Dodgers are lined up to start Clayton Kershaw on Friday, Julio Urías on Saturday and Buehler on Sunday. Los Angeles could opt to push Buehler back a couple of days, depending on how the standings look at that point. Scherzer would be the likely starter for a potential Game 163 tiebreaker or the Wild Card Game.
Giants: Johnny Cueto is working his way back from a right elbow sprain, putting his availability for the postseason in doubt. The Giants’ bullpen also took a significant hit when closer Jake McGee landed on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain, leaving Tyler Rogers as the club’s preferred ninth-inning option in the interim. Darin Ruf is sidelined with a right oblique strain, but he could return as soon as he’s eligible on Thursday. The Giants’ latest injury concern occurred on Sunday, when Brandon Belt exited after being hit by a pitch on his left hand. Initial scans came back inconclusive, so Belt is expected to undergo X-rays when the team returns home to San Francisco.
Dodgers: Cody Bellinger is on the injured list for a third time this season, this time with a left rib fracture. Bellinger took batting practice on the field on Saturday and believes that he’ll be ready to return before the end of the regular season. The former NL MVP is eligible to return from the IL on Tuesday against the Padres. He’s had a nightmare season at the plate, but Bellinger gives the Dodgers a Gold Glove defender in center field.
What happens if there’s a tie?
If the Giants and Dodgers are tied atop the NL West after 162 games, they would play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday, Oct. 4, to determine the winner of the division. Home-field advantage would go to San Francisco, by virtue of the Giants’ 10-9 record in the head-to-head season series. The winner of Game 163 would advance to the NLDS, while the loser would host the NL Wild Card Game.
The last time the NL West was decided by a tiebreaker was in 2018, when the Dodgers beat the Rockies, 5-2, in Game 163 at Dodger Stadium.
Have the Giants and Dodgers played a tiebreaker before?
In 1962, San Francisco and Los Angeles met in a three-game tiebreaker series to determine the winner of the NL pennant. The Giants ultimately prevailed in dramatic fashion, scoring four runs in the ninth inning of the decisive third game to advance to the World Series, where they lost to the Yankees in seven games.
Before relocating to the West Coast, the historic rivals met in another three-game tiebreaker in 1951, when the New York Giants defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers behind Bobby Thomson’s iconic Shot Heard ‘Round the World off Ralph Branca, which capped a four-run, ninth-inning rally in Game 3 at the Polo Grounds. The Giants won the pennant, as radio broadcaster Russ Hodges famously said, but they came up short in the World Series, falling to the Yankees in six games.