If the Dodgers and Giants just provided a glimpse of a possible playoff series, an October matchup between these rivals could be one for the ages.
“I can imagine that would be the most intense postseason series I’ve ever been a part of,” San Francisco first baseman Brandon Belt said.
The September showdown wasn’t half bad, either.
Steven Duggar hit a two-run triple after being called up earlier in the day, Belt homered, and the Giants wrapped up a key weekend series against Los Angeles with a 6-4 win Sunday to take a narrow NL West lead again.
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San Francisco did it with a second straight bullpen game, and did it watching Albert Pujols launch another home run at age 41.
“It’s just no flinch, up and down the lineup, the bullpen,” Duggar said. “Just go about our preparation and every guy pulls their weight. It’s just a lot of fun, it’s a lot of fun to come to the field, strap it on and go play.”
Pujols hit career home run No. 678 with a pinch-hit, two-run drive in the ninth off Giants closer Jake McGee, who allowed Max Muncy’s single one out later then retired Mookie Betts on a called third strike. The final out went to replay and was confirmed after right fielder Mike Yastrzemski caught Justin Turner’s fly against the netting in foul territory.
“We lost a series, we got beat and we could have done things differently, obviously which could have been the difference in the series,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We’ve got to find a way to quickly turn the page and we’ve got a ballgame to win tomorrow.”
Brandon Crawford had an RBI double and Darin Ruf singled home a run in the second as San Francisco beat Walker Buehler (13-3) for the first time. He had gone 7-0 with a 1.83 ERA over his initial 12 outings and 10 starts against the Giants. The right-hander hadn’t allowed more than five runs since giving up six to Colorado on Sept. 2, 2019.
“The worst I’ve thrown in a long time,” he said.
The Giants tagged Buehler for a season-high six runs on seven hits over three innings in the final regular-season matchup between the rivals. San Francisco (87-50) now holds a one-game division lead and owns any tiebreaker — such as home-field advantage if there’s a one-game playoff if they finish with the same record — with the defending World Series champions (86-51) after winning the season series 10-9.
And here’s how close these clubs played in 2021: The Dodgers outscored the Giants head-to-head 80-78.
Dominic Leone pitched a perfect inning in the first start of his career in a second straight bullpen game for San Francisco after the Dodgers relied on relievers in the series opener Friday night when David Price couldn’t go.
José Álvarez entered for the second and surrendered Will Smith’s RBI single before winner Zack Littell (2-0) relieved and struck out two.
“Back-to-back bullpen days are tough,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “That’s no secret. Sort of a hallmark of this team is being able to handle challenging situations and being good at handling challenging situations.”
San Francisco avoided losing three straight series for the first time all season.
“It really felt like a playoff atmosphere out there,” Belt said, “… It’s crunch time.”
PUJOLS RETURNS TO ST. LOUIS
Pujols is headed back to Busch Stadium with some nostalgia again in St. Louis, which he called home for his first 11 major league seasons from 2001-2011.
The 41-year-old slugger insists “I don’t think about,” so he can avoid any potential distractions with so much fanfare.
Still, the trip is plenty meaningful — even if he went back to Busch Stadium in 2019 with the Angels. By not placing added expectations on himself, Pujols said it’s a way to avoid disappointment “if it doesn’t go the way that you thought.”
“It was special in 2019 when I first went there and it’s going to be special when we go there tomorrow for the week,” Pujols said. “I always try to let those things play out the way they’re going to play out. I just don’t like to bring distraction on myself. I just try to prepare myself for the game and the things that I have to do.”
Pujols is slated to play Tuesday and Thursday.
Dodgers: OF AJ Pollock was placed on the 10-day injured list with a strained right hamstring though he “felt much better today,” according to Roberts, after the injury Saturday night. Pollock is expected to miss two to three weeks. “A couple weeks is probably where we’re at,” Roberts said. “I still seeing him getting back this season at some point.” … LHP Clayton Kershaw, out since July 7 with an inflamed pitching elbow, threw a good bullpen using all his pitches and remains on schedule to make a rehab start on Tuesday for Triple-A Oklahoma City. … LHP Danny Duffy, on the 60-day IL with a flexor strain in his pitching elbow, will continue to play catch in the next couple of days before he is scheduled for simulated game.
Giants: OF Austin Slater was placed on the seven-day IL with a concussion sustained Saturday night. He was hurt crashing into the center-field wall in the first inning Saturday night trying to chase down Trea Turner’s leadoff home run. … INF Donovan Solano was expected at the ballpark after traveling back from New York, where he quarantined following a positive test for COVID-19.
Los Angeles recalled RHP Mitch White for his eighth big league stint of the year, having most recently pitched at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga and also with Oklahoma City.
The Giants called up OF Duggar and RHP Camilo Doval from Triple-A Sacramento and optioned LHP Sammy Long to Sacramento.
RHP Max Scherzer (12-4, 2.40 ERA), whose right hamstring tightened up his last time out, takes the mound for the Labor Day matinee at St. Louis.
RHP Kevin Gausman (12-5, 2.52) takes the mound for the Giants in the series opener at Colorado on Monday coming off three straight no-decisions but with victories in his last three decisions.