Rookie's gem helps Giants clinch Wild Card tie

Rookie's gem helps Giants clinch Wild Card tie

SAN FRANCISCO -- Due largely to rookie Ty Blach, the San Francisco Giants won't have to endure those Monday blues. Paced by Blach's eight-inning effort in Saturday's 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants assured themselves of playing beyond Sunday's regular-season finale.

The Giants can advance directly to the Wild Card Game at New York on Wednesday if they finish ahead of the Cardinals on Sunday. As Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said, "If we win, we're in." The Mets (87-74) clinched the first Wild Card spot by winning Saturday. San Francisco (86-75) and St. Louis (85-76) closely follow. At the very least, the Giants will visit St. Louis for a one-game showdown Monday to determine the second Wild Card winner.

"No matter what, we're traveling," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Also, the Dodgers' loss guaranteed they must begin their Division Series confrontation at Washington, which will have home-field advantage for the five-game set.

"I don't think anyone in here is reading too much into it," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of starting the postseason on the road. "We had an opportunity, but moreso we should be thinking about playing good baseball. We have one more [regular-season game] to sharpen and tighten things up."

The suddenly surging Giants secured their third consecutive victory and fourth in five games as Blach permitted three hits in his second Major League start. In his first Giants start, last Sunday at San Diego, Blach allowed two runs and four hits in three innings.

The biggest differences between that outing and this one, Blach said, "was getting some nerves out of the way and just the crispness of everything."

Blach does it with his arm, bat

"We just couldn't figure him out," Roberts said.

Angel Pagan homered off Clayton Kershaw to lead off the fifth inning and break a scoreless tie. Singles by Pagan and Crawford, combined with third baseman Justin Turner's throwing error, helped the Giants add a pair of seventh-inning unearned runs.

"It was where I wanted it," Kershaw said of the fastball Pagan hit. "If I could do it over again, I would have thrown a different pitch. I didn't think he hit it that well, but I guess he did. Tip your cap."

• Kershaw solid in final prep for Division Series

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gotta find me an Angel: Pagan was in the middle of the Giants' offense with his homer and rally-inducing single. Pagan's production reflected his versatility, since he delivered from the fifth spot in the batting order. He also has batted first, second, sixth, seventh and ninth this year.

"Angel has a knack of coming through when you need him," Bochy said.

"When the team needs me the most, I want to be the guy," said Pagan, whose postgame attire included a T-shirt honoring fellow Puerto Rican and Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. "I love the fire."

Pagan's homer opens the scoring

Joc's chance: Starting in center field against a lefty instead of Kiké Hernandez, Joc Pederson had the only real scoring opportunity for the Dodgers. With runners on first and second and one out in the second inning, he bounced into a double play.

"I think we gave away a lot of at-bats today, and obviously we've got to be better," said Roberts.

Giants turn two in 2nd

Turn the beat around: What has changed the direction of the Giants' season? Crawford pointed out that the team's defense has been sharper. Though fielding percentage doesn't always reflect a ballclub's defensive prowess, the Giants did begin Saturday with a league-best .988 figure.

Moreover, the Giants have begun to record the big hits they weren't getting when they possessed the Majors' worst second-half record. They're batting .324 (24-for-74) with runners in scoring position in their last seven games.

Unkenley-like: Needing the work, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was brought in down three runs in the eighth inning. He had only nine walks in 67 2/3 innings coming into the game, then walked two of the first four batters he faced before escaping a bases-loaded jam by striking out Crawford and Gordon Beckham.

Jansen leaves 'em loaded

"I prefer to come in when we've got the lead in the ninth and we win the game," said Jansen. "Right now, just keep fingers crossed that everybody stays healthy. Since we clinched, home-field doesn't matter. Just don't want to go home in the first round. Doesn't matter where we start. If you're going to get to the World Series, you have to win on the road anyway."

WHAT'S NEXT
Dodgers: In Vin Scully's final game, Kenta Maeda makes the 12:05 p.m. PT start. It will be his final prep for Game 3 of the National League Division Series and a last chance to tie Rick Sutcliffe for most wins by a Dodgers rookie pitcher at 17. He is 3-0 with a 2.65 ERA against the Giants and beat them on Sept. 21.

Giants: With the right-handed Maeda starting for the Dodgers, San Francisco can be expected to employ a largely left-handed-batting lineup behind Matt Moore. This means Denard Span likely will be in center field and Conor Gillaspie probably will start at third base. The Giants' television and radio broadcasts will simulcast Scully's call of the third inning.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. 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.