SAN FRANCISCO — The Dodgers are the reigning World Series champions and the Padres appear to be the club most aggressively pursuing high-profile upgrades, but heading into Friday’s trade deadline, the Giants will hold a 3-game lead in the National League West.
In a loaded division that was supposed to be a two-team race between the Southern California powers, it’s the Giants who’ve been in the lead for two months as they clinched a second consecutive series win over the Dodgers with a dominant 5-0 victory on Thursday at Oracle Park.
Starter Johnny Cueto dazzled for 5 2/3 scoreless innings, shortstop Brandon Crawford returned from the injured list and immediately gave the Giants an early lead and a bullpen that’s been the best in the majors over the last two months shut down the Dodgers.
Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris have worked the phones all week in pursuit of deals that will give the club a better chance of winning the division and playing deep into October, but San Francisco has consistently proven it can match up with the best clubs in baseball and this week’s series was the latest proof.
All five of the runs the Giants scored Thursday came with two outs as an offense that leads the National League in homers was able to manufacture offense to clinch a series against the Dodgers.
In his first at-bat since being activated from the 10-day injured list, Crawford stepped in against Dodgers left-hander David Price with two outs and the bases loaded in the first inning and poked a two-run double down the third base line to give the Giants a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“I think we’ve had several of those moments come up over the last 10 days and we haven’t been able to capitalize on many of them,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think it’s just important to have Craw’s presence in the lineup.”
The double marked the 250th of Crawford’s career and his 59th and 60th RBIs of the season extended his team lead.
The Giants added on against Price in the second on a rally that started when Cueto legged out an infield hit on a high chopper past the mound. After left fielder Austin Slater reached on a fielder’s choice, Wilmer Flores drilled an RBI double into right center field. Two innings later, it was Slater who brought left fielder Thairo Estrada home from second with a two-out single that landed in front of Dodgers center fielder A.J. Pollock.
The Giants’ fifth and final run of the game was a significant moment for left-handed hitter LaMonte Wade Jr., who came to the plate in the seventh inning 0 for 31 against left-handed pitchers in his major league career. On the first pitch of an at-bat against southpaw Victor González, Wade crushed a double into the left-center-field gap that allowed second baseman Donovan Solano to score all the way from first.