The San Francisco Giants will get an opportunity to capture the National League West crown Saturday afternoon when they continue a three-game series against the visiting San Diego Padres.
The Giants (106-54) clinched no worse than a tie for their first NL West title since 2012 with a 3-0 victory over the Padres (78-82) in the series opener Friday.
With unopened boxes of champagne awaiting, the Giants then watched on television as the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers (104-56) kept their faint hopes alive by rallying past the visiting Milwaukee Brewers 8-6 in a game that ended almost an hour later than the one in San Francisco.
With the Dodgers and Brewers scheduled for a night game Saturday, the Giants will get first crack at officially eliminating the eight-time defending West champions if they are able to beat the Padres in the afternoon.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler insisted his guys wouldn’t be distracted at all by the fact they drove home dry after the completion of the Dodgers’ game Friday night.
“We’re a pretty workmanlike group. We’ve demonstrated that consistently,” he said. “We don’t get too high or too low. We focus on the stuff right in front of us.
“(A Dodgers win) was our expectation all along. We’ll be prepared.”
Right-hander Kevin Gausman (14-6, 2.87 ERA), who might have made just a cameo appearance had the Dodgers lost on Friday night, will now be called upon to perform his regular starter’s duty in the regular season’s penultimate game.
While the All-Star surely would love to wrap up the division title, Gausman has the added incentive Saturday of turning the tables on a Padres team that has roughed him up twice in the past 2 1/2 weeks.
Gausman allowed eight runs and 17 hits in just nine innings in those games, with the Padres sending the veteran to a 7-4 home defeat on Sept. 16 and a no-decision in a 6-5 Giants win at San Diego on Sept. 21.
The 30-year-old veteran has gone 2-1 against the Padres in his career, compiling a 3.78 ERA in seven games, including six starts.
In order to improve his fortunes against San Diego, Gausman likely will have to figure out a way to handle Fernando Tatis Jr.
The NL Most Valuable Player candidate has three hits, including a home run, in his past five at-bats against Gausman, raising his career average against him to .429 with two homers in 15 plate appearances.
Tatis had two of the Padres’ nine hits Friday in the shutout loss, including his 30th double of the season. He raised his batting average to .283 to go with his 42 homers and 25 stolen bases.
Padres manager Jayce Tingler insists his star shortstop has nothing left to prove when it comes to the MVP balloting.
“I know my opinion on it,” he boasted. “He has been the Most Valuable Player in the league.”
The Padres, who have lost seven in a row, are scheduled to start Joe Musgrove (11-9, 3.22 ERA). The right-hander matched up with Gausman on Sept. 21, allowing five runs in 5 2/3 innings during a no-decision.
Seeking a career-best 12th win, Musgrove owns a 2-3 lifetime record with a 5.51 ERA in six starts against the Giants.
He will be looking for better success against Brandon Crawford, who has produced a .455 (5-for-11) career average vs. Musgrove, with two doubles, a triple and a homer.
–Field Level Media