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Postseason-bound: Giants first in MLB to clinch playoff spot

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Longoria celebrating

SAN FRANCISCO -- When he took over after the 2018 season, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi didn't use the word "rebuild." On Monday night, the Giants proved why. 

Less than three years after a new front office took over, and just two seasons into Gabe Kapler's tenure as manager, the Giants are back in the postseason. With a 9-1 win on Monday night against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park, the Giants became the first MLB team to punch a ticket to the postseason and clinched their first berth since 2016.

They're not done, though. 

Players and coaches planned to celebrate the accomplishment, but the goal coming into this season was to end the Los Angeles Dodgers' eight-year run atop the National League West. In that respect, it was appropriate that the Padres were in town for this one. The Padres were the darlings of the offseason, and the view around the game was that they were poised to give the Dodgers a run for their money.

Instead, the Giants quietly reloaded with under-the-radar vets, struck gold on trades that were ignored at the time, and saw their veterans -- including Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt -- take huge strides at the plate in their mid-thirties. They have led the NL West for 130 days and talk openly of following this clinch with another one before the regular season ends in three weeks. 

Crawford said before the game that there would be no letting up on the gas pedal.

 

"Knowing that that's our goal, to win the division -- we know the Dodgers are right behind us so we have to keep coming out and playing like we have all year," he said. 

Still, the Giants planned to pause for a moment to celebrate. This is a franchise that went 214-272 from 2017 through 2019 and missed the expanded postseason by one game last year, finishing 29-31. 

This year's group has been historically consistent and is currently on pace for 105 wins. The Giants have won at least 60 percent of their games in every month of the season, a relentless push that allowed them to become the first Giants team since 1912 to clinch a postseason spot by the 144th game of the season. 

They did it in emphatic fashion on Monday night, scoring five runs in the first inning against Yu Darvish, with Tommy La Stella and Evan Longoria homering. Mike Yastrzemski and Belt homered off Darvish in the fourth to pad the lead.

"It's our goal in spring training to get to the postseason," Crawford said. "I think we always had our eye on the division but to get to the postseason is obviously how you get your foot in the door to potentially win a World Series. It's a good first step and we'll celebrate and have fun with it."

The Giants maintained a 2 1/2 game lead in the NL West after the Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night.

This is not a roster prone to a letdown, but the upcoming schedule will make sure everyone is focused when Tuesday's game rolls around. The Giants have three more against the Padres and then three against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves before hitting the road again. 

"We are capable as a group of taking a moment to reflect on what we've accomplished," Kapler said Monday afternoon. "I think we're capable of also staying pretty focused on the step right in front of us."

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