For Giants, edging out rival Dodgers would bring extra joy
Dodgers this, Dodgers that, almost a decade of the Dodgers. In San Francisco, there are fans who have known nothing but the domination of the Dodgers.
Not that many fans, of course. The three World Series championships in five years are not forgotten.
But look at the girl standing near the Giants’ dugout Friday, hoping for an autograph: Annabelle Fein, wearing a 2012 World Series championship T-shirt and a Will Clark cap. She may not be too young for the memorabilia, but she is too young for the memories.
And look at the girl in the team store: Samantha Childers, wearing a Tim Lincecum jersey. When Lincecum won his first Cy Young award in 2008, Samantha had not yet been born.
This team is for them, a team to celebrate as their own. And, for San Francisco, this is a team for the ages, a team with more wins than any in the past century of a proud franchise.
Trea Turner hit two homers, including a grand slam, in an 8-6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, but Clayton Kershaw’s health once again becomes a concern.
That the Giants are poised to win the National League West, with the best record in the major leagues, is thrilling enough. The 106-win Giants clinched at least a tie for the NL West on Friday night with a 3-0 victory over the San Diego Padres. If they win Saturday, the division is theirs.
The extra helping of joy for their fans is that the Giants would beat out the hated Dodgers — not the overhyped Padres, not the uninspiring Arizona Diamondbacks or Colorado Rockies. “Beat L.A.” is part of the soundtrack of a game here, even one between San Francisco and San Diego.
“These fans and this city have won before. They’re definitely hungry for it,” said Ron Wotus, a Giants coach since 1998.
“The Dodgers have been the class of the league. So I think because it’s our rival, to the fans, it probably has more significance than if we’re beating the Padres for the pennant.”
The Giants’ stadium store is selling the “Built for October” shirts you see the players wear in clinching celebrations. The Dodgers’ stadium store has not sold them, at least to this point. A Dodgers spokesman did not respond to a message asking why. After eight consecutive division championships, perhaps the probability of a wild card is not so exciting.
The Dodgers were two games behind the Giants last Saturday, with seven games to play. Neither team has lost since then, and Giants pitcher Anthony DeSclafani said his team has been frustrated by gaining nothing for all that winning.
“They’re probably more frustrated with us,” DeSclafani said. “We’re ahead, and we keep winning.”
As the Dodgers and Giants fight furiously for a division title to the final weekend of the regular season, these are the memories that kids like Annabelle and Sam can call their own, chapters to add to the ones handed down.
“For a Giants fan, the Giants-Dodgers rivalry is all about these kinds of seasons,” said Jon Miller, the Giants’ veteran broadcaster.
The road back to the World Series figures to be more treacherous than it was last year, the Dodgers’ margin for error smaller.
Within seconds, Miller reeled off a series of seasons: 1951 and 1962, when the Giants beat the Dodgers in tiebreakers; 1982, when the Giants knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs; and 1993, when the Dodgers knocked the Giants out of the playoffs.
“And now, after all these years, we could see something we’ve never seen before,” Wotus said.
That would be the first postseason series between the Dodgers and Giants, if the St. Louis Cardinals are defeated in the wild-card game.
Miller handled the ESPN radio call of the 2003 and 2004 American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, two classics that accelerated the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry from regional to national.
At that time, baseball’s postseason rules prevented division rivals from meeting before the league championship series.
With the chance to feature the Dodgers and Giants — the teams with the two best records in the majors — Miller said he would encourage commissioner Rob Manfred to re-seed the playoffs so the teams would not meet before the league championship series.
“Go ahead and call the networks and see if they think that’s a good idea,” Miller said. “That’s what you want. The two behemoths, who just had this classic pennant race, you want them in the LCS.
“If you’re a baseball fan, those are the two teams you want to have face each other, and not in a best-of-five.
“To say, ‘Well, that’s our format, and let the chips fall where they may?’ I think the commissioner should be able to insert himself into something like that.”
Highlights from the San Francisco Giants’ 3-0 victory over the San Diego Padres on Friday night.
Back in the team store, Samantha’s father — wearing a Lincecum jersey, just like his daughter — took a moment to appreciate how special this summer has been. The Dodgers could win 106 games but not win the NL West. No team has ever won so many games and not finished in first place.
“We may never see this see this again,” Jason Childers said. “This is epic.”
And then, spoken as a true Giants fan: “Beating the Dodgers always feels good, even if they’re in last place.”
They would be in first place, in any other division. This has been a Giant summer indeed.
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