CHICAGO -- A lot has changed since the last time the Giants were chasing a division title, even when it comes to something as simple as monitoring what's going on around the game.
It's not uncommon to see Gabe Kapler and his coaches checking cell phones as they walk around the field during batting practice, a notable change from decades of coaches pulling paper schedules and lineups from their back pockets. There are iPads lining the back walls of every dugout and high-tech replay centers a few feet away. Clubhouses always have had plenty of mounted televisions, but these days lockers are filled with tablets and phones, and if you step away, there's a decent chance all that information is being beamed to a smartwatch.
But some things haven't changed, particularly at the two ballparks the Giants will play at over the next 10 games. At Wrigley Field, the out-of-town scoreboard is in straightaway center, a throwback to another century. At Oracle Park, it's on the right field wall, directly in front of the home dugout. Both are updated manually in real time, and digital scoreboards add highlights and more info.
It's scoreboard-watching season, and as much as the Giants might try to keep the focus on themselves and ignore what the Los Angeles Dodgers are doing, well, sometimes they have no choice.
"I think you can't help these days but notice it if you're a player," Duane Kuiper said on this week's Giants Talk podcast. "There's so much information on the scoreboard it's ridiculous. The scores now are updated instantaneously. I'm watching the Dodgers game on my iPad and I see that Corey Seager just hit a home run and by the time I see it (in the press box) I look at the scoreboard at Oracle Park and it's already up. That's how fast it's up."
The Giants have tried to avoid big-picture talk all year and focus on the day-to-day grind, but the next three weeks will be as much about their rival as themselves. As they try to end Los Angeles' eight-year run atop the NL West, every Dodgers loss is nearly as valuable as a Giants win.
The magic number to clinch the division is a combination of 20 Giants wins and Dodgers losses. To clinch a playoff spot it's just six, and the Giants could technically do that this weekend with a sweep of the Chicago Cubs and three losses by the Cincinnati Reds. Kuiper explained how, even as the Giants keep their focus on the field, they'll always know what's going on elsewhere.
"I think as a player, if you don't notice it, you always have somebody on the team that notices it and he's kind of like your scoreboard-watcher and he will give you information as to what's going on," he said. "He may even have information of how it's happened if they're watching inside the clubhouse or down in the tunnel. So yeah, they're paying attention to it. I start paying attention to Dodgers scores in April just because I'm curious to see how they're doing, and for me it's not mood-changing (back then), but now, the run that they've been on, it just doesn't look like they're ever going to lose."
Both teams have been neck and neck for months, and at some point it got almost comical how often a Giants loss would be followed by a Dodgers loss, or vice versa. But after finishing off a sweep of the Colorado Rockies, the Giants got to do some fun scoreboard watching. The Dodgers lost later that afternoon in St. Louis and again on Thursday, the first day off for the Giants in more than two weeks.
The lead at the moment is 2 1/2 games with 22 to play, although you won't find the Giants talking about that much.
"I know that the Dodgers are winning baseball games -- I'm totally aware of it," Kapler said on Wednesday. "We're totally focused on our club and the work that we've been doing. Ninety wins is a great accomplishment, we're all proud of it, and particularly proud of the players believing that they could get to 90 wins, calling it out, stating it in spring training. Again, we're not done. There's a long way to go. We've got to keep grinding and getting through this last stretch."