The San Francisco Giants with their 9-1 win at home over the Padres on Monday night became the first team to clinch a berth in the 2021 postseason. It's also the earliest postseason clinch, by calendar date, in franchise history.
The Giants, winners of eight in a row, now stand at an MLB-best 94-50 and are assured of at least a wild card berth in the National League side of the playoff bracket. They have at this writing a three-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West and what is likely a battle for top seed on the NL side.
Gabe Kapler's club is also now on pace for 106 wins this season, which would tie the franchise record set by John McGraw's 1904 New York Giants. Kapler missed the postseason in each of his two seasons as Phillies manager, and in the abbreviated 2020 season he narrowly missed the expanded playoff field in his first season as Giants manager.
For the Giants, it marks their first return to the playoffs since 2016, when they fell to the eventual champion Cubs in the NLDS. Overall, it's their 27th postseason appearance in franchise history. Given the team's excellence during the regular season, the Giants will have legitimate designs on winning the World Series for the ninth time in franchise history.
This year's Giants model has thrived with a balanced attack. The offense led the NL in OPS and ranked second in home runs, while the Giants ranked third in the NL in rotation ERA and first in bullpen ERA. In the field, San Francisco ranked second in the NL in defensive efficiency, which is the percentage of balls in play that a defense converts into outs.
The Giants this season haven't been under .500 since April 6. They've also spent 131 days (and counting) in first place and have a winning record against every other team in the division.
What also stands out is how unexpected such a level of success is. The Giants last season went 29-31, and this past winter their marquee free-agent addition was probably infielder Tommy La Stella. Even the most optimistic of forecasts had the Giants as a fairly distant third place in the division coming into the 2021 season. The heights they've reached make them one of the most surprising teams in recent memory, and that defiance of expectations makes Kapler the heavy favorite to win NL Manager of the Year honors.
The real hardware, though, is the World Series trophy, and the Giants will go into the 2021 postseason with a shot at winning it for the fourth time in the last 12 years.