There likely will not be folding chairs flying between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers and the teams they have to beat over the next six days, but it might come down to that.
The Giants hold a nice two game lead over LA for the National League West title, which will be decided this week, maybe sooner than later. Both teams are in cage-fight mode but if the NL West isn’t decided before Friday, both of these teams will also have to go into prep mode for the playoffs next week.
The question is, how far should a team go all in to grab the Division title? At first it seems like an easy answer: go total scorched earth and get all Medieval right through Sunday’s game if there’s any chance of staying out of a one-game Wild Card situation.
But there’s also this. With the Giants’ 102-54 record and LA at 100-56, the math informs us that these teams could have identical records after the final game of the regular season on Sunday October 3rd.
That would mean a one game playoff between LA and SF to decide the who wins the NL West (which, by the way, is not an actual “playoff” game; it would be counted as game 163 of the regular 2021 season).
The losing team will then play the second NL Wild Card team on Wednesday October 6th in a single elimination game. So there could possibly be an MLB team with over 100 wins eliminated in that single Wild Card game.
The team winning the NL West will move to the NL Division Series and play their first game on Friday October 8th.
So one issue is: which pitchers do SF Manager Gabe Kapler and LA Manager Dave Roberts keep in their back pockets for a possible Monday inter-Division playoff game?
As far as the coming week, San Francisco will play six home games– three with Arizona and three with the San Diego Padres. LA will also play six home games– three against the Padres and three against the Milwaukee Brewers.
At first glance, it appears the Giants have the easier schedule this week; the Diamondbacks have had a dismal 2021 season as their stunning 50-106 record illustrates. And there’s little doubt that San Diego has under-performed this season, starting the final MLB week at .500 (78-78).
Los Dodgers on the other hand will start the week against those same under-performing Pads but then finish up against the National League Central Division winning Milwaukee Brewers and their 94-62 record (as of Monday).
But let’s turn this around and look through the large end of the telescope.
It could just be that since Arizona has absolutely nothing to lose they will go all baseballs out to derail San Francisco. While the Brewers, who have comfortably won their Division, just may want to rest their best pitchers and hitters in the final days of the season to prepare for the American League Division Series, which beings on Thursday October 7th.
Now the Brewers will reassure the Giants that they will put their best players on the field against LA, but the counter argument is that it took all 26 players on their roster to win the NL Central.
So they can set the final three games of the season up any way they wish.
On Tuesday October 28th San Francisco will start RHP Logan Webb against the Diamondbacks, and LA will throw RHP Walker Buehler at San Diego. Both starters are also currently scheduled to pitch on Sunday October 3rd, the final day of the regular season.
How Gabe Kapler and Dave Roberts, and their respective GMs and coaches, prepare for the final regular season week, a possible Division winner playoff game on Monday, and the actual 2021 playoffs next week will be a fascinating exercise to watch.