Eliminated from playoff consideration and in a downward spiral after losing 12 of their last 16 games, the San Francisco Giants still have plenty to play for starting Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
The matchup is one of baseball's oldest rivalries, which will no doubt heighten the senses, but there is also the matter of delaying the Dodgers' celebration of an unprecedented seventh-consecutive National League West title.
The Dodgers enter Friday's game with a magic number of four. The moment that Dodgers victories and Arizona Diamondbacks defeats add up to that number, Los Angeles will have what it hopes is the first of multiple champagne celebrations in the clubhouse.
In order to stop that kind of party, the Giants will need a better brand of baseball after falling 10-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday.
"It's a game you wash off," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who will be managing a series at Dodger Stadium for the last time before retiring at the conclusion of the season. "We're going to L.A. and hopefully we'll ramp it up a little bit. It doesn't matter if you're playing young players or not. It's all about playing good baseball."
And what about preventing the Dodgers from clinching?
"I'm not even thinking about that," Bochy said. "(It is) inevitable so there's no point in thinking about it."
Trying to handle the Dodgers will be a team affair, with a majority of that responsibility first falling to Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija (9-11, 3.61 ERA), who takes the mound in the series opener.
Samardzija is coming off his worst outing of the season, when he allowed six earned runs over 5 1/3 innings Sunday against the Padres. He will try to revert to his August form, when he had a 1.84 ERA over five starts.
The Dodgers will counter with their own veteran in left-hander Clayton Kershaw (13-4, 2.96), who is also coming off his worst outing of the season. On Saturday at Arizona, Kershaw gave up five earned runs on five hits over five innings.
It was the first time all season Kershaw failed to last at least five innings. He has lost consecutive starts after winning his previous six decisions.
"I felt pretty good today actually," Kershaw said of his weekend start, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I just left a few pitches middle again and gave up some homers."
He gave up two home runs on Saturday and has now given up eight over his last three starts (18 innings). His 23 home runs allowed this season in 155 innings match his career high for a season set in 2017 over 175 innings.
Facing the Giants could be what Kershaw needs. He is 23-11 against them with a 1.68 ERA in 47 career appearances (46 starts) that total 337 1/3 innings, and is 1-1 against them this year with a 1.29 ERA in 14 innings. He has not given up a home run to the Giants this season.
Samardzija is 1-5 with a 3.75 ERA in 10 career appearances (eight starts) against the Dodgers and is 0-1 against them in two starts this season with a 2.61 ERA. His only victory against the Dodgers came in relief during the 2011 season as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
--Field Level Media
Kershaw, Dodgers set to face Giants