The Los Angeles Dodgers are the defending champions, and the San Diego Padres have one of the most dynamic rosters in baseball.
With that type of competition pushing them, the San Francisco Giants have been unyielding.
The Giants haven't had a winning season since 2016, and they were certainly overshadowed by Dodgers and Padres entering this one, but it's been clear for a while that San Francisco needs to be taken seriously. The Giants have won 16 of their last 21 games. Not only do they have baseball's best record, but they're four games ahead of the Dodgers, the next-best team in MLB.
How have they done it? The Giants lead the National League in homers despite not having a player with 20. Brandon Crawford, their 34-year-old shortstop, is having a career year with the bat. He has 19 home runs, one of eight players on the team with at least 13.
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Kevin Gausman (11-5, 2.29 ERA) has pitched like a front-line starter this season, and Anthony DeSclafani (11-5, 3.29) has rebounded after a brutal 2020 with Cincinnati.
If the Giants hold on, that would potentially put the Dodgers and Padres in a one-game wild-card matchup to start the postseason — with both teams facing the prospect of a quick elimination. And even that matchup is far from certain. San Diego dropped four in a row against the lowly Marlins and Diamondbacks, and the Padres now lead Cincinnati by just 1.5 games for the second wild card. St. Louis is 4 games back after six straight wins, and the Philadelphia Phillies are 4.5 games back.
Cincinnati is riding the resurgence of Joey Votto, who has 15 homers since the All-Star break.
The Dodgers have won the NL West in eight consecutive seasons and are seeking a tie with the New York Yankees for the second most division titles in MLB history with nine this year. Despite being injury-riddled all season, the Dodgers are still capable of catching the first-place Giants, they'll just need some help from other teams. The Dodgers have won 8 of their last nine games overall, but have yet to gain any ground on San Francisco.
Both teams have lost just three games in the month of August (so far).
The two teams will face each other just three more times in September.
The Giants have won six pennants and three World Series while in San Francisco, but they've won more than 100 games only twice, when they won 103 in 1962 and 1993. The '93 team actually finished second to Atlanta in the NL West in the final pre-wild card season. They are on pace to win more than 100 games this season.
The Dodgers have 12 pennants and six World Series titles while in Los Angeles (1958 to present). They have won more than 100 games four times since 1958, (1962 -102, 1974 -102, 2017 -104, and a franchise record 106 wins in 2019). They are also on pace to win over 100 games this season.