SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- As they huddled at their Arizona Spring Training site, the San Francisco Giants were hearing what the ESPN pundits were saying, what the Vegas oddsmakers were predicting and the chatter that was cascading across social media.
This would be the season of an epic battle for the National League West title between the star-studded, highly-paid rosters of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres.
And the aging Giants?
They would be mediocre at best. Maybe they would win 75 games. At best, they could play the role of spoiler to make sure the Padres brought an end to the Dodgers run of eight straight NL West titles.
The Giants would play spoiler -- to both. The 2021 Giants won a franchise-record 107th game Sunday over a reeling San Diego club. They forced the 106-win Dodgers into a one-or-done wild card game against the red-hot St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday to earn the right to take on San Francisco in the NL Divisional playoffs.
"How proud I am of this group and what they accomplished," Manager Gabe Kapler told the sellout crowd after Sunday's 11-4 win. "Part of why I feel this way is because we all knew what the projections were and what the industry thought of us as a club."
"What I realized there are some intangibles that those projections and viewpoints failed to take into consideration," he continued.
"The first intangible was just toughness ... This group always thought they were going to win the game. Another intangible they didn't account for was grit. We had some injuries, guys who struggled for a long time. They just went back to work every day ... They got stronger and better."
"The last intangible, the most important one, was vision ... The group of older players said we want to win the National League West. At that point, this entire group surrounded that vision and made it the goal and never gave up on that goal."
Shortstop Brandon Crawford, whose 2021 season has earned him MVP considerations, echoed those sentiments.
"It was our goal to win the West this year and we knew that could be a kind of lofty goal of where the projections were and where everybody thought we were going to end up," Crawford said.
Crawford batted .298 and finished the regular season with career highs of 24 home runs and 90 RBIs — the most runs driven in by a Giants player since Buster Posey's 95 in 2015 — and 12 of those being game-winners.
He had the top batting average in the majors since July 1 with a minimum 200 plate appearances at .344.
The Giants rewarded his success with a new $32 million deal that will pay Crawford $16 million in base salary in both 2022 and '23.
Buster Posey, who collected his 1,499th and 1,500th career hits Sunday, took a few moments to appreciate the epic battle that did emerge this season in the NL West. This one between his Giants and the Dodgers.
"You're going to be hard-pressed to see another race like this for quite a while," he said. "I don't think we're going to see it too often, especially coming down to the last game like it did with that many wins."
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