Here’s what needs to happen for Dodgers to pass Giants and win NL West
The Dodgers sealed their third 100-win season in five years Sunday. They could tie the franchise record of 106 wins with a perfect final homestand at Dodger Stadium this week. They boast the best run differential in the major leagues. It is already one of the most successful regular seasons in the club’s history.
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But context sours that fact and modifies the narrative because the San Francisco Giants, somehow, someway, have been even better. Projected by humans and computers to finish somewhere behind the Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the standings, the Giants are 102-54 — two games clear of the Dodgers for first place.
As a result, the Dodgers, owners of the second-best record in the majors at 100-56, have a 16.1% chance to win their ninth straight National League West title, according to FanGraphs. That means they have an 83.9% chance of playing in the wild-card game Oct. 6 at Dodger Stadium — likely against the suddenly invincible St. Louis Cardinals.
So, it comes down to this: The Dodgers need to win at least two more games than the Giants over the next six days to have a chance to claim the NL West. If the Dodgers finish two games better than San Francisco, the teams would play a tiebreaker game Monday at Oracle Park (the Giants claimed homefield advantage by winning the season series 10-9).
The winner would take the division title and head straight to the National League Division Series. The loser would play in the dangerous one-game playoff at home two days later.
After witnessing what happened in 1996 between the Dodgers and Padres, MLB wanted to make sure there was a bigger reward for winning a division title.
The Dodgers host the reeling Padres for three games starting Tuesday followed by a three-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers, who have the third-best record (94-62) in the NL, have already clinched the NL Central title.
Regardless of how they finish, the Brewers will be seeded second and will play the NL East champion, either the Atlanta Braves or Philadelphia Phillies, in the NLDS. Whether that impacts how they approach the season’s final weekend remains to be seen.
The Giants, meanwhile, have the more favorable remaining schedule on paper. They host the 50-win Arizona Diamondbacks — the NL’s worst team — and the Padres to close the regular season. A 5-1 week and San Francisco would set the franchise record for wins, eclipsing the 1904 New York Giants’ 106-win season. They Giants will be shorthanded, however, after first baseman Brandon Belt — the team leader in home runs, slugging, and OPS — fractured his left thumb Sunday. He is out indefinitely.
Whether the Dodgers catch the Giants or not, the finish will be historic. One of them will become just the fifth team in the divisional era (starting in 1969) to win 100 games and finish in second place. They’ll join the 2018 New York Yankees (100-62), 2001 Oakland Athletics (102-60), 1993 Giants (103-59), and 1980 Baltimore Orioles (100-62).
From the Shot Heard Round the World to the 2020 National League Championship Series, here’s the story of all 16 Dodgers winner-take-all postseason games.
Six other 100-win teams finished in second before divisions were implemented. It happened to the Dodgers twice. The 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers finished tied with the Giants but lost a three-game tiebreaker series for the NL pennant. The 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers went 104-50, two games behind the Cardinals for the pennant.
Those Dodgers teams weren’t given a second chance. The wild-card game was decades away. They went home. This year, they are ensured of a chance to become the first back-to-back World Series champions in 21 years. They’d just like to avoid the one-game playoff. After six months, it comes down to this week.
The Dodgers’ bat boys and clubhouse attendants, known as clubbies, are a tight-knit group of loyal employees wearing World Series championship rings.
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