Forget the wild card for now. The San Francisco Giants are still in the hunt for the NL West title as they continue their regular season-ending three-game series with the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers.
“We’re still trying to win the division. You can’t think second place,” Giants center fielder Marquis Grissom said. “If you’ve still got a chance to win the division, you have to fight for it. And that’s what we’re doing.”
The reigning division champions got seven strong innings from Kirk Rueter on Friday night as they beat the Dodgers 4-2 in the series opener, pulling within two games of the lead with two to play.
“There’s no time to savor this one,” San Francisco manager Felipe Alou said. “The biggest game of the season is tomorrow and the second-biggest one is Sunday.”
J.T. Snow homered and Grissom doubled home two runs as the Giants, tied with Houston for the wild-card lead, continued to put the heat on Los Angeles, which has not won the division since 1995.
“Everyone is real anxious to win the game and celebrate and get it over,” said Dodgers right fielder Shawn Green, who went 1-for-4 with a strikeout Friday. “We just need to relax and go out and play our game. Early on, we were up there trying to do too much.”
With a sweep, the Giants can force a one-game playoff with the Dodgers or put Los Angeles in the wild card if the Astros lose one of their two remaining games. Two more wins would clinch the season series for San Francisco over Los Angeles—the tiebreaker in determining the division champion if the second-place team holds the wild card.
The Astros, who beat Colorado 4-2 on Friday for their 16th straight home win, will await the winner of a one-game playoff between the Giants and Dodgers if both Houston and San Francisco sweep this weekend, leaving the three contenders in a dead heat at 92-70.
The Giants-Dodgers winner will take the West while the loser will battle Houston for the wild card.
“Hopefully by winning tomorrow, we could make Sunday meaningless for us,” Green said in a quiet clubhouse. “We battled all year. We’re not going to stop now.”
Making matters worse for Los Angeles, Saturday’s scheduled starter, rookie Edwin Jackson, was scratched due to a muscle spasm in his back. That puts the ball in the hands of journeyman Elmer Dessens, who was 1-5 with a 7.68 ERA for Arizona as a starter this year before being sent to the bullpen and ultimately to the Dodgers in a waiver deal on Aug. 20.
“The farther Edwin goes with it, the worse it gets,” said Dodgers manager Jim Tracy. “He could handle a shorter stint and could relieve.”
Dessens has never beaten the Giants, going 0-3 with a 7.49 ERA in 12 career appearances, including seven starts.
If Dessens fails to bring the Dodgers home Saturday, Tracy indicated that he would pitch left-hander Odalis Perez on three days’ rest Sunday.
“I’ve never done that in my life, not even the minor leagues,” said Perez, who has pitched eight innings in each of his last two starts. “But I think I can do it. I’ll get treatment and I’ll be ready.”