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It’s rare that the Dodgers and Giants are both this good, this late

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A look back at late-season series between contending bitter rivals

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Dodgers and Giants are both going to make the playoffs. Tied for the best record in baseball entering a three-game series, this weekend will go a long way in determining which team gets a direct path to the NLDS and which team has to get through the wild card game.

That’s reason enough to make this weekend in San Francisco of paramount importance. But just that both the Dodgers and Giants are contending for the division at the same time is also news in itself.

Both teams are tied for first place in September for just the second time in the divisional era, per Sarah Langs at MLB.com. The other time was in 1997, when the Giants pulled even on September 18 to finish off a two-game sweep, thanks to a walk-off home run by catcher Brian Johnson (or as he’s known in some households, Brian F. Johnson). Andrew Baggarly at The Athletic wrote about that game.

Very generally, these two teams rarely contend on the same schedules. When the Dodgers were good, the Giants weren’t, and vice versa.

Since moving out west, this is only the 12th season out of 64 that has the Dodgers and Giants playing each other in September or later with both teams within no more than three games of first place at the start of the series.

This is the first time it’s happened since 2014, when they had two such series in September. The Dodgers won the division that season, but the wild card Giants had the last laugh, winning their third World Series in five years.

Dodgers and Giants in contention late

Year Games left Dodgers Giants GB Site Result Division* winner
Year Games left Dodgers Giants GB Site Result Division* winner
1959 8 2nd 1st 2 San Francisco LA 3-game sweep Dodgers
1962 0 1st 1st --- Both^ SF 2-1 Giants
1965 28 1st 2nd 1 Los Angeles SF 2-game sweep Dodgers
1966 25 2nd 2nd 2 Los Angeles LA 2-1 Dodgers
1969 13 2nd 1st 0.5 San Francisco SF 3-game sweep Braves
1971 16 2nd 1st 3 San Francisco LA 2-game sweep Giants
1978 25 1st 2nd 1 Los Angeles LA 3-game sweep Dodgers
1982 3 2nd 2nd 1 San Francisco LA 2-1 Braves
1997 11 1st 2nd 2 San Francisco SF 2-game sweep Giants
2004 10 1st 2nd 1.5 San Francisco LA 2-1 Dodgers
2004 3 1st 2nd 3 Los Angeles SF 2-1 Dodgers
2014 16 1st 2nd 2 Los Angeles LA 2-1 Dodgers
2021 28 1st 1st --- San Francisco TBD TBD
Series between the two teams in September or October with both within 3 games of first place ^best-of-3 National League playoff

The first such series was in 1959, the second year out west for both. The Giants held a two-game lead over the Dodgers with eight to play, when they met for three games at Seals Stadium in San Francisco. Los Angeles swept all three, but their work wasn’t done. The Dodgers needed a playoff to beat the Braves that year to make the World Series.

Two other late Dodgers-Giants contending series also involved a three-team race with the Braves. In 1969, the first year of divisional play, the Giants swept the Dodgers in San Francisco with a week and a half left, but ended up losing the NL West to Atlanta. In 1982, the Dodgers and Giants met in the final weekend of the season up north, both tied for second place, one game back of the Braves. The Dodgers won the first two games in San Francisco to eliminate the Giants on Saturday, then on Sunday the Giants returned the favor, with the help of Joe Morgan’s home run off Terry Forster.

The most famous of these late Dodgers-Giants series was the 1962 National League playoff, a best-of-three regular season series to decide the pennant. This was the fourth such playoff in NL history, with all four involving the Dodgers. Brooklyn lost in 1946 and 1951 (the latter to the Giants), and Los Angeles beat Milwaukee in 1959.

Both teams were 101-61 through 162 games, and the Giants took the first game 8-0 in San Francisco. The Dodgers won on a walk-off the next day at Dodger Stadium, and held a 4-2 lead in the ninth inning of the decisive third game. But the Giants rallied for four runs to win the pennant.

That 1962 season was notable, and not just because NL MVP Maury Wills’ 165 games played still stands as the major league record. It has to do with the Dodgers and Giants’ pennant race. Once again, from Langs at MLB.com:

In the entire span of this storied rivalry, going back to their first meeting as MLB clubs on May 3, 1890, this is just the second season when these two teams will meet, 130 or more games into a season, each with .630 or better winning percentages. The other time was Sept. 3-6, 1962. And this season’s series starts on? Sept. 3. Because baseball.

The Dodgers entered that series at 90-47 (.657) with the Giants at 86-50 (.632). But because they were separated by 3½ games at the start of the series, I didn’t include it in our list above.

No matter how you slice it, it’s rare when the Dodgers and Giants are this good at the same time. So let’s enjoy this series for what it is.