(Reuters) – The San Francisco Giants are back in the playoffs and seeking to add to their magic in even numbered years after beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-1 to clinch a National League (NL) wildcard berth on Sunday. On the final day of the Major League Baseball regular season, contending teams made their final push to crystallize the playoff picture.
When the dust settled, the Giants, with their victory, finished with an 87-75 record, one game better than the St. Louis Cardinals, whose victory over Pittsburgh was in vain.
San Francisco needed closing dramatics to make it happen, winning its last four games and sweeping the Dodgers in the series finale.
“It would have been easy to pack it in,” said Giants catcher Buster Posey, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs on Sunday. “We didn’t play that well (in the second half of the season). But now we’ve picked up some momentum, so let’s see what happens.”
The Giants, who seized World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 to create a strong omen for 2016, will face fellow NL wildcard winner New York Mets in a one-game playoff in New York on Wednesday.
Right-hander Noah Syndergaard is expected to start for the Mets, while the Giants will send left-hander Madison Bumgarner, the 2014 World Series most valuable player, to the mound.
The winner of the Mets-Giants game advances to the best-of-five NL Division Series starting on Friday against the Major League-best Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs concluded their stellar campaign with a 7-4 triumph over Cincinnati for their 103rd victory of the season.
“It’s a nice, round number. We’ll take it,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon who has helped the franchise to their highest win total since 1910.
“We end up with the last win of the season. I think that speaks loudly about our entire team.”
NL East champion Washington Nationals will host NL West winner Los Angeles Dodgers in the other Division Series starting on Friday. In the American League (AL), the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles ended the regular season with wins to clinch the two league wildcard spots.
Both teams finished with 89-73 records. Toronto outlasted Boston 2-1, while Baltimore took down the New York Yankees 5-2.
The Blue Jays and Orioles will meet in Toronto in the wildcard game on Tuesday, with the winner to face AL West champion Texas Rangers in a best-of-five Division Series starting on Thursday. The Red Sox, who have long clinched the AL East, travel to Cleveland on Thursday to kick off their Division Series against the AL Central-winning Indians.
Boston slugger David Ortiz, who has been enjoying a farewell tour in the final season of his storied career, will get a chance to go out on top as the Red Sox challenge for what could be a fourth World Series crown this century.
(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both)