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Giants, Dodgers set for massive showdown tied atop NL West

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Thairo Estrada homer

Buster Posey tried to warn us all that this could be coming. 

Way back in the middle of February, Posey insisted that the Giants had an NL West title at the top of their checklist. The outside world might have viewed the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres as runaway favorites, but the clubhouse entered this season with the same goals as always. 

Try to win the NL West. Try to win the pennant. And after that, well, you know. 

"As much as I think the sports world loves to try to predict everything," Posey said back then, "There's still some parts of it that can't be predicted."

One of them is coming up this weekend. Nobody saw the Giants and Dodgers battling it out for a division crown in September, but here they are: After Thursday's 5-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Giants and Dodgers will enter their final series of the year tied atop the NL West. 

"I think this is a much-needed victory for us, obviously," manager Gabe Kapler said. "It's a good boost of confidence for us going into the next series, but obviously all of our attention and focus was on today's game. It was important, because we needed every ounce of mental energy."

The Giants emptied the tank in the eighth inning, stunning Devin Williams with a four-run game-winning rally. Williams had allowed just four total runs over his previous 33 appearances and had allowed just seven extra-base hits to right-handed hitters in his three big league seasons, but Darin Ruf hit a go-ahead double and Thairo Estrada followed with a three-run homer, the first this season by a right-handed hitter facing Williams. 


The young reliever might have the best changeup in the game, but after issuing two walks he threw three straight to Ruf, who put a twist on "one to measure, one to rake." 

"I had never faced him before so I kind of wanted to see what the action on (the changeup) was," Ruf said. "I got to see the first one that he made a really good pitch on. I basically got to see a ball and then a strike, and the (third one), I think he obviously would have liked to make a little bit more of a better pitch. Luckily I kept it fair down the line and was able to come through."

The Giants had been 4-for-40 with runners in scoring position in the previous four games, but Ruf and Estrada smoked back-to-back balls, making sure Logan Webb's brilliant effort didn't go to waste. Webb got a career-high 21 swinging strikes and allowed just one earned run, the 14th consecutive start that he allowed two-or-fewer.

The Giants have won 13 of those games and this was the most important of them all. It pushed them back into a tie for first and set up a monumental weekend at Oracle Park. It'll likely be Anthony DeSclafani and two bullpen games for the Giants, with the Dodgers countering with David Price, Julio Urias and Walker Buehler. 

It is a mismatch on paper, but so was this season six months ago. In September, none of that matters. 

"A lot of people probably didn't think we would be in this position," Ruf said. "In our last team meeting of spring training we obviously set some goals as a team, and to be able to accomplish those goals in September with so few games left is really a testament to how well we've played all year. We've exceeded expectations to this point.

"Hopefully we keep these next three games in perspective. While we want to come out and play really well, we still have to stay relaxed and stick to our approach and not let outside influences affect our play on the field."

The Giants have done that all year. Now they'll see if they can do it in the biggest series of the season. 

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