Giants-Dodgers rivalry adds new chapter in MLB playoffs

·4-min read
Denard Span, right, scores for the San Francisco Giants ahead of the throw to Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes, left, in a regular-season meeting between the Major League Baseball rivals, who meet Friday for the first time in the MLB playoffs (AFP/Thearon W. Henderson)

After 2,535 games over 131 years, two of Major League Baseball's most heated rivals, the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, will finally meet Friday in a playoff contest.

The reigning World Series champion Dodgers visit the Giants, this year's winningest MLB club, to open a best-of-five National League division series showdown and add a new chapter to one of baseball's epic feuds.

Clubs that began battling as New York cross-town foes in 1890 moved to California in 1957 and continued their storied rivalry through this season, where the Giants edged the Dodgers by a game for the NL West division crown.

After the Dodgers beat St. Louis in a wildcard playoff game Wednesday, the stage was set for the 107-win Giants to meet the 106-win Dodgers in a playoff series matching the winningest clubs to ever meet in the post-season.

"It's what baseball wants -- Giants-Dodgers," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "One of the best rivalries in sports. And it's happening."

Together they have combined for four World Series titles and six league crowns since 2010.

It's only the third time a defending champion will face the year's top regular-season club in the divisonal round, with reigning champs having won the prior matchups.

The Giants won the season series between the teams 10-9 to earn a home-field advantage in their playoff matchup and snap a run of eight division titles in a row by the Dodgers.

"You could argue we're the two best teams in baseball and we have been all year long," Roberts said. "The fans have been waiting for it."

The Dodgers will try to become the first team to repeat as World Series champion since the New York Yankees took three in a row from 1998-2000.

There's no team that would love to dethrone the Dodgers more than the Giants, whose only titles since leaving New York came in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

"When it comes down to the post-season, there's no doubt the intensity is there," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "But there's no doubt (it's) heightened if we play them."

- 'Absolutely everything' -

As league and division rivals, the Giants and Dodgers had no chance to meet in the post-season until the playoffs were expanded in 1995 and for a quarter-century, fate denied them that showdown. Until now.

"They have been a great team. They won the division. They beat us. Now we have an opportunity to get them where we want them. That's winning the post-season," Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer said.

"It's going to take absolutely everything from us to win this series. So here we go. Let's play some baseball."

The Giants were once based in the Polo Grounds in well-to-do Manhattan while the Dodgers called working-class Brooklyn's Ebbets Field home, setting the foundation of an iconic rivalry.

In 1951, the Dodgers led the Giants by 13.5 games on August 11 but ended the season deadlocked for the National League title. In the decider, Bobby Thomson hit the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" -- a dramatic ninth-inning home run -- to give the Giants the crown.

The black-and-white video footage and radio announcer screaming repeatedly "The Giants win the pennant" became a classic US sports television highlight.

Tensions didn't lessen after the moves west. In 1965, Giants pitcher Juan Marichal hit Dodgers' catcher Johnny Roseboro in the head with his bat, touching off a brawl and opening a cut that needed 14 stitches.

- 'Super excited' -

It's that legacy that young ace pitchers Walker Buehler (16-4) of the Dodgers and Logan Webb (11-3) of the Giants will take to the mound in the opener.

"I'm super excited," Webb said. "To be able to throw the first game for the best team in the league is pretty cool."

The Dodgers were favored from the start, having spent $270 million before adding stars Trea Turner and Scherzer during the season.

The Giants were upstarts who won their first division title since 2012 with a club-record 241 homers.

The Giants won 107 games this season -- another franchise record -- but had to battle the Dodgers to the final day of the season for the title.

Each club has an injured first baseman with San Francisco's Brandon Belt (fractured left thumb) and Max Muncy (left elbow) of the Dodgers sidelined.

Roberts and Giants manager Gabe Kapler were teammates on the 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox and built top teams in similar fashion.

"There's a lot of familiarity," said Roberts. "Which makes it fun, even more challenging."

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