The top spot in the National League West and the season series between the division co-leaders are at stake Sunday afternoon when the Los Angeles Dodgers and host San Francisco Giants wrap up their three-game showdown.
The Dodgers (86-50) and Giants (86-50) have split the first two games of their sixth and final series of the season.
The team with the regular rotation starter available prevailed on both previous occasions in this series. Anthony DeSclafani powered the Giants toward a 3-2 win in 11 innings in the opener on Friday, before Julio Urias got the ball rolling the following day in a Dodgers’ 6-1 victory.
If the trend continues, that would be more good news for the Dodgers, who have ace Walker Buehler (13-2, 2.05 ERA) lined up to start the final regular-season matchup between the rivals. The Giants are expected to use a parade of relievers for the second straight day.
The winner will take a one-game lead into the final four weeks of the regular season — and will be assured the home-field advantage should the clubs finish in a tie and require a one-game tie-breaker for the NL West title. The season series, which is the first tie-breaker in a division deadlock, currently stands even at 9-9.
Buehler has gone 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA over his past five starts, all Dodgers wins.
The right-hander already has made five starts against the Giants this season, going 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA. He has never lost to San Francisco in his career, going 7-0 with a 1.83 ERA in 12 appearances (10 starts).
Giants manager Gabe Kapler likely has his choice of any of his relievers in the series finale except Jarlin Garcia, who pitched a total of 3 2/3 innings in the first two games.
San Francisco has used 10 other relievers once apiece after getting six innings of two-hit ball from starter DeSclafani on Friday.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts likewise has worked his bullpen hard over the two nights despite getting 5 2/3 innings of one-run pitching from Urias on Saturday.
Phil Bickford, Alex Vesia, Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen have all been called upon in each game, while seven other Dodgers relievers having been summoned once apiece.
Both teams are hoping for improved offensive production in the ultimate showdown.
Dodgers star Mookie Betts has gone just 1-for-8 with two walks in the series, watching his season average drop to .266, its lowest mark since mid-July.
“I’ve hit a couple balls hard then mixed in a pretty decent amount of bad at-bats,” he said of a current 4-for-29 slump. “It’s a part of the game. We’ve been playing well as a team, so that’s all I really care about.”
The Giants have out-hit the Dodgers 17-14 in the two games, but have gone just 4-for-30 with runners in scoring position.
“We’re not getting it done in the biggest moments,” Kapler said. “To win a major-league baseball game, you have to drive in runs and have big innings. It feels like we’re able to put mini-rallies together, but we’re not quite getting the big hit. That’s part of the reason we’re kinda up and down right now.
“The silver lining when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position — and it’s a small silver lining — is it tends to change pretty quickly. It tends to be fairly contagious.”
–Field Level Media