Mike Piazza hit two home runs on the final day of the regular season in 1993 as the Los Angeles Dodgers eliminated the rival San Francisco Giants from the playoffs. (Getty Images)
Any combination of Braves wins and Giants losses totaling six will eliminate San Francisco from the National League wild card.
The red hot San Francisco Giants come to Dodger Stadium for a three-game series on Tuesday night, riding a season-high eight-game winning streak. San Francisco, even with their hot streak, has a 4.4% chance to make the postseason per Baseball Prospectus, as they are three and a half games out of the wild card and five and a half games out of the National League West with eight games to play.
That puts the Los Angeles Dodgers in a position to play spoiler, but that's just another layer to the rivalry.
The Dodgers can eliminate the Giants from the NL West, as the elimination number is just four, a combination of Giants losses and Arizona Diamondbacks wins. The Giants' elimination number for the wild card is six, meaning any combination of Atlanta Braves wins and Giants losses totaling six will disqualify San Francisco from the wild card. That makes it impossible for the Dodgers to completely eliminate the Giants during this three-game series, as even a sweep by Los Angeles would require three wins by the Braves, who have two more games in Florida before having Thursday off.
While the Dodgers can't officially eliminate the Giants from the postseason, they can cripple their playoff chances. There is a very fulfilling amount of satisfaction in that.
In 1982, the Dodgers went into the final weekend of the regular season with a series against the Giants in San Francisco, and the two longtime rivals were tied, one game behind the Braves in the NL West. The Dodgers beat the Giants on Friday and Saturday to eliminate San Francisco, but Atlanta also won twice so the Dodgers still trailed by a game heading into the season's final day.
Fernando Valenzuela and Bill Laskey matched one another through six innings and the two teams were tied at 2-2. Meanwhile in San Diego, the Braves lost, which meant the Dodgers needed a win to force a one-game playoff. Valenzuela was replaced in the seventh by Tom Niedenfuer, who allowed a single and double to his first two batters. One out later, the southpaw Terry Forster was called in with a pair of left-handed batters due up in Max Venable and Joe Morgan. Giants' manager Frank Robinson replaced Venable with the right-handed Jom Wohlford, but Forster struck him out anyway for the second out of the inning.
Forster got ahead of Morgan 1-2, but hung a slider that the Hall of Famer hammered over the right field fence for a 5-2 lead. "I still remember watching Joe between first and second base," teammate Duane Kuiper said of Morgan, per the San Francisco Chronicle. "He raised his right arm as if to say, 'If we're not going to win it, you're not either.'"
The Dodgers scored one in the eighth inning and even brought the tying run to the plate, but their division hopes were dashed by Morgan and the Giants. Before the Giants moved into what is now AT&T Park in 2000, Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle called Morgan's home run "one of the greatest moments in Candlestick history because of the hurt it put on the hated Dodgers."
Revenge was sweet for the Dodgers 11 years later, as the Giants came to Dodger Stadium looking to reach the playoffs. San Francisco came into the season's final weekend winners of 11 of their last 13 games, one game behind the 101-57 Braves at in the National League West in one of the great pennant races ever.
The Giants won the first three games of the weekend series over the Dodgers, and heading into the final day of the regular season were tied with the Braves at 103-58. Atlanta beat the Colorado Rockies before the game in Los Angeles began, so the Giants needed to beat the Dodgers on Sunday to force a one-game playoff with the Braves on Monday.
It didn't happen.
The Dodgers knocked out Salomon Torres in the fourth inning, then hit four home runs off the Giants bullpen as they cruised to a 12-1 win. Mike Piazza hit two of the home runs, ending the greatest rookie season ever for a catcher (.318/.370/.561, 35 home runs, 112 RBI).
For the Dodgers, it ended their season at .500, but was worth celebrating since they eliminated their hated rivals. "We had a little meeting before the game and Tommy [Lasorda] gave us a little pep talk," outfielder Cory Snyder told the Los Angeles Times. "Tommy came in and started reciting the stats and times that the Giants had knocked the Dodgers out of the pennant, and that seemed to be all the incentive we needed."
The Dodgers in 2011 head into their series with the Giants a .500 team, at 76-76, a rather ordinary and uninteresting season. But they can deliver a crushing blow to their rival's postseason hopes. Sometimes, that's enough.
For a detailed preview of the Dodgers vs. Giants series, be sure to read True Blue LA.