The Giants won their fifth straight game on Saturday, creeping to within 2½ games of the Dodgers, the closest they have been since Aug. 6. The Dodgers knew winning the division wasn't going to be as easy as 2013, when they entered the final month with a 10½-game lead over Arizona.
"Early on everybody thought we were going to run away with it. Then we were down 9½ and we had no chance to win the division. Now it's back to this," said manager Don Mattingly. "I think everyone in our locker room understands how good the Giants are, and how hard games are down the stretch."
The largest the lead got for the Dodgers was six games, on Aug. 12, and they are 7-8 since then.
"It would be nice to keep it closer to six than where it is now, but they're a good team," said Zack Greinke. "We don't expect it to be easy."
Mattingly's mantra for pretty much the entire season has been for the Dodgers to take care of their own business, focusing on what they can control and not worrying about what other teams are doing.
But this week for the Giants has been hard to ignore. Jake Peavy successfully removed the fork stuck in his back and has been an effective starter for San Francisco, including taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning on Saturday night against the Brewers. It was the second near no-hitter in five days for San Francisco, which saw Madison Bumgarner come within five outs of a perfect game against the Rockies on Tuesday.
But just like the Giants weren't as good as their 42-21 start suggested, they also weren't as bad as their 20-36 stretch immediately after it. What San Francisco is is a good team, one in wild card position and a formidable foe down the stretch.
"It's been a concern all year. We have to keep playing good. I feel we have been, but that team is tough. It's not like it's going to be an easy ride," Greinke said. "If we don't play good, it's going to be a problem. So we have to keep playing good."
The Dodgers have 26 games left to keep playing good, including six more games with the Giants - Sep. 12-14 in San Francisco and Sep. 22-24 in Los Angeles.