The Giants’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2016 is officially in single digits.
Following their three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies earlier this week, the Giants’ magic number to earn a postseason berth is now down to eight. They own a 2½-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the National League West, and their magic number to clinch their first division title in nine years is now 20 with 22 games to go.
Now comes a chance to continue the momentum, as the Giants start a three-game series with Chicago Cubs today at Wrigley Field. The Dodgers start a three-game series at home tonight with the San Diego Padres.
“I know that the Dodgers are winning baseball games. Totally aware of it,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said after his team’s 7-4 win on Wednesday at Coors Field. “We’re totally focused on our club and the work that we’ve been doing.”
Kapler is planning to have the bullpen cover every inning of Friday’s opener and Kevin Gausman is slated to start Saturday. On Sunday, though, there’s a possibility Scott Kazmir could get the nod.
Maybe he’s ready. In his longest outing since he rejoined Triple-A Sacramento in mid-August, Kazmir allowed two runs over six innings of Tuesday against the Salt Lake City Bees.
Infielder Donovan Solano could rejoin the team after his quarantine period ended recently, but the Giants could also send him back to Triple-A for a rehab assignment.
Here’s a look at where things stand in the NL West with just over three weeks left in the regular season.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (90-50): Part of the reason why the Giants have remained in first place for most of the season is the way they’ve taken care of business against the NL’s bottom feeders. Against the Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, for instance, San Francisco now has a combined record of 26-6.
The Giants hit .353 for the Rockies series with six home runs and are hitting .279 with an OPS of .849 in eight games so far this month — pretty impressive considering they played 16 days straight. The Giants went 10-6 in that time and are now 40-games above .500 for the first time since 1993.
“No matter how today’s game played out, I would have been proud to go through the stretch like we did and come out as healthy as we are and as prepared for kind of the final stretch of games here in September,” Kapler said Wednesday.
“I think we did a nice job through a very, very difficult stretch of games and I think at some point we’ll look back and really recognize what a grind that was.”
Next up: Three games at the Friendly Confines.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS (88-53): After dropping their three-game against the Giants, the Dodgers went into St. Louis looking to dominate the middling Cardinals. It didn’t happen. Los Angeles won the first two games of the four-game series but dropped the last two, including a disheartening 2-1 loss Thursday.
“Looking at where we’re at,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after the game, “it’s very disappointing.”
The Dodgers are now hitting .205 this month, as stalwarts like Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger have gone a bit cold of late. Their usually reliable pitching staff has had some struggles as well the last two weeks with a 3.74 ERA before Thursday.
Next up: A six-game homestand, starting with a three-game set vs. the San Diego Padres.
SAN DIEGO PADRES (74-65): The Padres have gone 3-3 so far this month and they remain a tough team to figure out. They beat the Houston Astros twice but also dropped costly games to also-rans Arizona and the Los Angeles Angels.
The Padres seemed like they were in a good position to make the playoffs one month ago as they held a 4½ game lead over the Cincinnati Reds for the second wild-card spot. That lead, though, was one game entering Friday, and now San Diego enters one of the most difficult parts of its schedule.
A 10-game road trip starts with a three-game series with the Dodgers, followed by four with the Giants and three in St. Louis. We’ll get a better idea of what the Padres are all about by the end of that trip.