SAN FRANCISCO -- There isn't a week on the MLB schedule where talent is discussed in greater detail than this one. The trade deadline is three days away, and every remaining hour until the buzzer sounds will be spent dissecting aces, former MVPs and top prospects.
After the deadline, it won't all be about talent, though. The playoffs come down to execution, particularly in big spots, and nobody is coming through more consistently right now than the Giants.
Once again, they played a close and tense game against a Los Angeles Dodgers club that's been trying to chase them down for two months. Once again, the Giants were the ones who executed, who came through in the biggest spots. Their 2-1 win was a third straight win over the Dodgers and pushed the NL West lead to three games.
The Giants have won four of five against the Dodgers over the past nine days, with the last three wins coming late. They twice rallied in the ninth inning last week at Dodger Stadium and Tuesday's win came in the eighth. As the Dodgers have watched the mistakes and ejections pile up late, the Giants have kept their calm, slowly extending their division lead.
"It boils down to guys just being prepared," Buster Posey said, "So when you get in a tight moment, knowing that you put the work in beforehand allows you to play relaxed."
The winning run came across when Cody Bellinger airmailed a throw with two on in the eighth. The Giants got a couple of walks to lead off the inning, but Darin Ruf hit a grounder to second. Mike Yastrzemski was on first at the time but he retreated long enough that Max Muncy elected to throw the ball to first instead of going for the tag.
When Bellinger recorded the out there, he saw Posey off the bag at third and tried to gun him down. His strong throw would have gone 40 rows deep but it was stopped by the net that protects fans sitting down the lines.
Posey sprinted home as Oracle Park roared, and moments later he laughed it up with teammates in a raucous dugout. On the field, Bellinger looked out at the scoreboard replay in disbelief.
"It slipped out of my hand," Bellinger told Dodgers reporters. "There's no excuses. I just threw it too high."
The play would have stood out under any circumstance, but it was particularly noteworthy given how the top of the inning had gone. The Dodgers put runners on second and third with Muncy and Justin Turner coming up and Gabe Kapler walked out to chat with Tyler Rogers. It seemed the Giants might intentionally walk Muncy -- Posey admitted that was his first thought -- to load the bases, but they decided to go after the player who has hit them harder than anyone else has this season.
"I did have a good conversation with Rog where I got some feedback with him on how he wanted to approach the next few hitters and why, and we discussed it quickly and made a decision as a group that we were going to pitch to Muncy and look to get a ground ball," Kapler said. "We felt like that was the best way to get through the inning. I can understand why that was surprising given the success Muncy has had against us. Rog is kind of a unique look and in particular he can be tough on left-handed hitters. We felt the best thing to do there was not to put additional runners on base and give Rog freedom."
Rogers said Kapler came out and said, "Hey, I've got all the confidence in the world in you. You want to face Muncy?" The right-hander said yes, and after they discussed the defensive alignment and signs package, Kapler walked back to the dugout and Rogers went to work.
Muncy grounded to first and Ruf came home with a perfect throw for the out. Rogers then got Turner to fly out, ending the inning and setting the stage for the lineup.
The winning run came moments later and Jake McGee closed the Dodgers out on another night when the Giants did an awful lot right.
It started, as it has often recently, with Logan Webb, who said he felt like there was a playoff vibe at Third and King on Tuesday. Webb is one of many current Giants who hasn't actually experienced the playoffs, but right now the players are getting close with these games against the Dodgers, and they're showing that they're going to be a very tough out no matter what happens to NL West rosters this week.
"These games have been unbelievable between us and I don't think that's going to change anytime soon," Webb said after six strong innings. "I think the games with the Padres will be very, very similar. I love the way that felt today, the added intensity and everything like that. It's a lot more fun when it's like that when the games don't mean as much."