Coming into the 2021 season, the expectation for the National League West was that it would be a two-team race between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. Surely, if the NL West were to have two playoff representatives, it would be that pair.
The San Francisco Giants didn't get the memo.
The Giants (94-50) clinched a playoff berth with Monday's 9-1 win over the San Diego Padres, becoming the first team in the majors to secure a postseason spot. It will be the organization's first trip to the postseason since 2016.
So how did we get here?
For one, number of players are having excellent seasons at the plate. Mike Yastrzemski has set a career high in homers (23). Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford were All-Stars. Brandon Belt (24 homers, .937 OPS) is having a career year.
And the team's 217 homers this season are the second-most in baseball.
Perhaps even more importantly, however, the rotation—led by Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Johnny Cueto and Logan Webb—has been superb. Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee have locked down the later innings. Entering Monday, the Giants' 3.27 ERA and 1.14 WHIP were each second in baseball.
There's no question that the Dodgers and Padres have greater star power. The Dodgers, in particular, might have baseball's deepest and most talented roster. But the Giants have quietly chugged along all season, winning at an impressive clip and currently sit in first place in the NL West (entered Monday 2.5 games ahead of the Dodgers).
A playoff berth became inevitable a while ago. Now the only question is whether the Giants can win their first title since they claimed three between the 2010 and 2014 seasons.