Giants ready for showdown with Dodgers

Giants ready for showdown with Dodgers

OAKLAND -- The Giants' last-gasp effort to qualify for the postseason essentially can be viewed as a sequence of four one-game playoffs.

"Actually, yeah, you could look at it that way," catcher-first baseman Buster Posey said Sunday after the Giants sustained their flickering October hopes with a 5-4 Interleague decision over the Oakland A's.

San Francisco shifts its focus to a four-game series against the archrival Dodgers beginning Monday night at AT&T Park. With seven regular-season games remaining for both teams, the Dodgers (87-68) lead the Giants (81-74) by six games in the National League West. Thus, the Giants have no margin for error. San Francisco's first loss to the Dodgers in this series will mathematically eliminate the reigning World Series champions from the West competition.

Acknowledging his use of a well-worn cliche, third baseman Matt Duffy said, "The way to go about it is one step at a time, though we already know we have to sweep them."

Jake Peavy, the canny veteran, is scheduled to start Monday's opening must-win clash against Cy Young Award candidate Zack Greinke. Speaking after Sunday's game, the ebullient Peavy sounded ready to take the field right then and there.

"I'm excited that my team still has a chance to make the playoffs," said Peavy, who owns a 14-3 record with a 2.42 ERA in 28 career starts against Los Angeles. "It's fun to play when everything rides on it."

Should the Giants manage to win Monday, they can cruise into Tuesday's game knowing they'll have ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner on the mound. However, Bumgarner will be opposed by the superb Clayton Kershaw. That exemplifies the challenge of this series for the Giants.

Logic dictates that the Giants should have exhausted their allotment of chances by now. Four regulars -- right fielder Hunter Pence, left fielder Nori Aoki, first baseman Brandon Belt and second baseman Joe Panik -- are sidelined for the rest of the season with various injuries. They have been replaced by a group of rookies -- outfielders Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson, catcher Trevor Brown and second baseman Kelby Tomlinson -- who have embraced the spotlight.

Tomlinson's RBI single

"Don't tell them it's supposed to be hard," Duffy said.

Moreover, the Giants have survived despite posting an abysmal 16-27 record in one-run decisions, which is widely considered a yardstick of a team's quality. In fact, San Francisco lost by a 5-4 score on three consecutive nights before Parker's prodigious slugging generated Saturday's 14-10 triumph. Perhaps Sunday's victory was a harbinger of improvement in close games for the Giants. They went a respectable 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and five relievers combined to blank Oakland in the final four innings.

For many Giants fans, the spectre of the Dodgers frolicking triumphantly on AT&T Park's playing surface after clinching the West is unthinkable at best and nightmarish at worst. But the Giants themselves refuse to dwell on such images.

"We don't think about that," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We go out trying to win a game, and whatever happens, happens."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.