The Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers are getting sick of hearing the F-word. Relax, I'm talking about "familiarity."
After 23 games against each other between the regular season and playoffs, there isn't much more these two teams can learn about each other. They know what they're good at -- a whole lot -- and hope they can expose each other's weaknesses the 24th time they square off this season.
Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday night at Oracle Park finally will put an end to the long, exhausting battle between these two embittered rivals. At least for this year.
Sure, part of you might want more. That's called the greedy part. Here's the truth: The Giants and Dodgers can't wait to get rid of each other.
If the Giants are to come away with a win -- making it a lucky baker's dozen against the Dodgers on the year -- they'll need to accomplish these three things to do so.
There will be dives, there will be slides and a whole lot of dirty Dodgers and Giants jerseys. That's not what we're talking about.
As experts continued to question the Giants all season long, and into the playoffs, they continued to play clean baseball. That's at the plate, on the mound, in the field and on the base paths. The Giants' offense finished third in walks -- behind the Dodgers and New York Yankees -- and their pitching staff issued the fewest amount of walks in the big leagues with only 416. The Dodgers, by comparison, walked 486 batters.
They also had the eighth-fewest errors on defense, and they were caught stealing the least amount of times.
In the Giants' Game 1 win, Logan Webb didn't walk a single batter over his 7 2/3 innings of dominance. Tyler Rogers and Camilo Doval also didn't issue any walks. But in their Game 2 loss, they walked two more batters than the Dodgers. Alex Wood walked two in 4 2/3 innings in Game 3, but the ballpen didn't issue a single free base. Then in their 7-2 Game 4 loss, the Giants walked five batters, a number much too high against a lineup as dangerous as the Dodgers.
The Giants can't afford a base-running mistake like Wilmer Flores had in Game 2. They can't walk two straight to load the bases like they did before Cody Bellinger's two-run double in that same Game 2 loss. They can't leave a barrage of runners on base, either.
Mistakes must be minuscule, and if the Dodgers give them an opening, they can't blink.
Bring The Power
There aren't enough words to describe the many surprises of the Giants this season. But did anyone see them leading the NL in home runs? Put your damn hand down.
The Giants finished the regular season with a franchise record 241 long balls. Coming into the postseason, some questioned if they were too homer dependent, though. Here's the good news: Home runs have equaled wins so far in the playoffs. MLB's Sarah Langs pointed out Tuesday night that teams that have out-homered their opponents are a perfect 13-0 this postseason.
The Dodgers have outscored the Giants 16-8 this series, doubling San Francisco in runs. However, the Giants have out-homered the Dodgers 4-3. In fact, all of the Giants' runs have been by homers in their two wins.
So far, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Kris Bryant and Evan Longoria -- four hitters with a whole lot of playoff experience -- have homered for the Giants. A total of 10 different Giants hit at least 10 home runs this season. Now, they'll need a name outside of their stars to step up on the biggest stage.
Just like swinging for the fences has been a winning formula so far in the playoffs, so has becoming the first team to put runs on the scoreboard. In that same tweet from Langs, she also noted that teams to score first are 13-5. The disparity is even greater in this Giants-Dodgers series.
The Giants were first to score in Game 1, and went on to win. The Dodgers scored first in Game 2, and evened it all up. You get the trend. The Giants struck first in Game 3 with Longoria's solo shot, and that wound up being all they needed. The Dodgers then scored once in the first and second innings in Game 4, forcing the win-or-go-home Game 5.
Time for a bigger sample size. In the 19 games the Giants and Dodgers faced each other in the regular season, the team that scored first went on to win 17 times. Along with two comeback wins, every time the Giants scored first, they came out on top against the Dodgers.
One more run is all that matters right now. The race to score first might be just as important.