SAN FRANCISCO -- Before this season started, it became pretty popular to predict that the Los Angeles Dodgers' eight-year run atop the National League West would end. The baseball world had it right. Everyone just picked the wrong team.
Well, almost everyone.
The Giants met back in March and set out clear goals for their first full season under Gabe Kapler, and the veterans made the NL West crown their target. After six months of shockingly consistent and dominant baseball, the Giants crossed the finish line on the final day of the regular season, and they did so with a 11-4 win over the San Diego Padres club that most outsiders viewed as the greatest threat to the Dodgers.
It took a franchise-record 107 wins and one last weekend of torture to seal the deal, but after failing to win Saturday, the Giants turned Sunday's game into an all-out party at Oracle Park. Logan Webb set the tone by striking out the side in the top of the first and the Giants took an early 2-0 lead on Buster Posey's third-inning single with the bases loaded.
Webb was pitching -- and swinging -- like someone who didn't need much support, but the Giants blew it open for him anyway. They scored five runs in the fourth inning, thanks in large part to Dinelson Lamet's complete lack of command. Wilmer Flores' two-run double was the big blow. Webb took the day to absurd levels in the fifth with a two-run homer to left, the first of his career and the first by a Giants pitcher this season.
The division title is the first in San Francisco since 2012. The Dodgers had won every year since, and they came into this season favored to make it nine straight division titles. They did their part, entering the final day of the season with 105 wins. The Giants were just better.
They got off to a necessary hot start and moved into first place on the final day of April, never letting up the rest of the way. They have had at least a .600 winning percentage every month of the season, and they had no intention of backing into October. They couldn't, anyway, not with the way the Dodgers have played since trading for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner.
The Giants banged the door down, clinching the division with eighth wins in their final nine games. They went 21-6 in September, the best mark since the franchise moved to San Francisco, and they never trailed on the final day of the regular season.
The Giants will finish the season having spent 125 days with the best overall record in Major League Baseball, and they'll have home field advantage for as long as they last in the postseason. The ultimate goal, of course, is to start the new decade off with an odd-year title, but back in the spring at Scottsdale Stadium, the Giants knew they had to cross other items off their checklist first.
This group missed the playoffs by one game last year, and most projection systems had them pegged for a win total in the high seventies. FanGraphs gave the Giants a 0.2 percent chance of winning the West, and they knew that they were huge underdogs.
"We're aware of expectations and we understand how people around the league view the National League West -- it's totally understandable," manager Gabe Kapler said on the first day of camp.
The Giants ignored the noise. When they met at Scottsdale Stadium and set a course, there was only one regular season goal in mind.
"As much as I think the sports world loves to try to predict everything, there's still some parts of it that can't be predicted," Posey said back then. "I think you go into it with the attitude of you're going out there trying to finish on top of the division. That's looking way in advance, but I think that has to be the goal."