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Giants' McGee looks sharp as he prepares for playoff return

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Jake McGee

SAN FRANCISCO -- For four months, the Los Angeles Dodgers tried -- and failed -- to catch the Giants. It had to be incredibly frustrating, and perhaps that explains why Jake McGee's cell phone wasn't blowing up as much as he thought it might. 

McGee spent last season with the Dodgers and won a World Series ring, but he said all was silent from former teammates as the NL West race got tight. 

"I was surprised. I haven't heard from them for a while," McGee said on Tuesday, smiling. "Early in the season we were talking a little bit more, but I think everyone was trying to win the division, so we didn't talk much at the very end."

McGee will have a chance to see some of those teammates in person this week. A day after he threw an important live BP session at Oracle Park, the Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals to guarantee an NLDS showdown between the National League's two best teams

Given what the regular season looked like -- the Giants won the season series 10-9 -- every single pitch is going to matter, and the Giants expect to have one of their best relievers back to form for the tense late innings. McGee hasn't pitched since Sept. 12 because of an oblique strain, but the Giants activated him on Saturday. He surprisingly didn't pitch in either of the final two games, even though the Giants had a blowout going on Sunday. 

 

Manager Gabe Kapler said it was important to the staff to keep the momentum rolling as the final outs of the regular season ticked down. He had faith in McGee, but he hadn't faced live hitters in weeks, and Kapler felt Dominic Leone could have a strong ninth inning and set off the party at Oracle Park. 

The Giants won't be able to find a soft landing spot for McGee in the postseason. In fact, they're probably going to need him in the late innings right away. With Max Muncy out, the Dodgers aren't as left-handed as they had been, but Corey Seager is as dangerous as any hitter in this postseason. 

Kapler said McGee's live BP on Tuesday was "really good" and gave him faith that his closer for most of the season is ready.

"I didn't think it was just, 'Oh, that's fine. That's enough for us to be comfortable with him for his first postseason inning,'" Kapler said. "I think it was a very good signal. I thought the velocity was there, I thought he stayed in his delivery, I think towards the end of his outing he executed his fastball at the top of the zone."

McGee rode that fastball to a career-high 31 saves, although it's unclear if he'll get the ninth against the Dodgers. Camilo Doval was just about flawless while filling in while McGee was hurt and recorded three saves the final week. It isn't Kapler's style to name a closer, and McGee views Doval's emergence as just another huge development for an underrated bullpen.

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"He's just been throwing strikes with his slider and his fastball at will," he said. "With his stuff, that's going to play against anyone. I think our weapons back there are going to be huge matchup pieces in the playoffs. (The coaches) are very good about putting guys in certain matchups in the sixth, seventh, eighth innings."

Whether he's pitching the ninth or not, the Giants expect McGee to be a big part of their success against his former teammates. He might not be getting many text messages from them these days, but McGee said he appreciated that the Dodgers stayed right behind the Giants through 162 games. 

"I think it was good that the Dodgers were so close to us. We didn't pull away," he said. "We had to play meaningful games through the last day of the season."

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