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What Giants fans should watch in playoff race down stretch

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The Giants are off Monday, but that probably didn't help Gabe Kapler get a good night of sleep. Right-hander Kevin Gausman, potentially a Game 1 starter in a postseason series, will have an MRI on his right elbow, and the result will determine a lot of how the Giants look over the next couple of weeks and into October. 

Yes, that read "next couple of weeks." Two weeks from today, the regular season will be over, with 14 teams going home to their families. The other 16 will be headed for an expanded postseason, and the race to get one of those spots is shaping up to a wild one ...

Where the Giants Stand

Even after getting swept by the Padres, the Giants woke up Monday in position to make the playoffs. They're still in that eighth spot:

7. Phillies (23-22)

8. Giants (23-24)

9. Rockies (21-25)

10. Brewers (20-24)

11. Reds (21-26)

12. Mets (21-26)

The Marlins have actually inched ahead of the Phillies and taken the second automatic berth in the NL East, which currently has them as the No. 5 seed. As the Giants were getting swept, the Rockies lost two of three to the lowly Angels and the Brewers lost two of three to the Cubs, getting no-hit in the finale. 

What's Next for the Giants

They took a two-game series from the Mariners at home last week and now will play two in Seattle, facing the same two pitchers -- Ljay Newsome and Nick Margevicius. The Giants have not announced their rotation, although Tyler Anderson and Drew Smyly seem likely choices.

 

The Mariners still have a lot to play for. They're 21-25, which puts them 4 1/2 games behind the Indians for the final AL Wild Card spot. But ... they still can catch the Astros, who are 23-24 and currently have the second automatic berth in the AL West. Have we mentioned this is all kind of a mess?

Series to Watch

The Cardinals and Brewers face off, along with the Mets and Phillies. Those games all have huge playoff implications, but the ones we're really watching the next couple of days include a team that's been out from pretty much day one. The Reds have a doubleheader against the Pirates on Monday and then play twice more. Given their talent level and desperation, that's a series they really should sweep, and that would get them right back in the mix for the No. 8 spot. It's do-or-die time for Cincinnati.   

Dropped from the Pack

The Pirates, at 14-30, are potentially headed for the first overall pick. You can also officially cross the Diamondbacks off the list, and the reigning champion Nationals, who are 17-28 after losing three of four to the Braves. 

They famously overcame a slow start last year, but this season's group just isn't getting enough out of that expensive rotation. Max Scherzer has a 4.04 ERA, Patrick Corbin is at 4.10, and Stephen Strasburg is out for the year with an injury. As a team, the Nationals have a 5.19 ERA. See you next year. 

A New Western Power?

The Giants saw firsthand how good the Padres are, and now the Dodgers will get a taste. The teams play a three-game series at Dodger Stadium, starting tonight, and it's actually a huge one. The Padres enter with seven straight wins and are just 2 1/2 games behind the Dodgers, who have won the NL West eight consecutive seasons. 

The Padres kept Dinelson Lamet out of Sunday's doubleheader so he could face Clayton Kershaw on Monday instead, so you know how much this means to them. It could end up having meaning to the Giants, as well, beyond just rooting for someone to end the Dodgers' run atop the West. If the Giants finish eighth, they'll almost certainly face the NL West champ in the first round. 

Keep an Eye on Barrels

When we last checked in on streaking Donovan Solano, he was chasing Trea Turner for the NL batting title. Now he's after a different National. Juan Soto leads the league at .354, followed by Solano at .349 and Turner at .348. Michael Conforto (.343) and Freddie Freeman (.339) are still within striking distance. Like the playoff race, this one looks like it'll come down to the wire.