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Giants turn to Blach for key start in wild-card chase

SAN FRANCISCO -- Rookie Ty Blach will seek to avoid becoming the next Salomon Torres in San Francisco Giants lore when he pitches a critical game Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Torres, then a 21-year-old rookie, was called upon by Giants manager Dusty Baker to pitch the final game of the season in 1993 when San Francisco and the Atlanta Braves were tied for first place.

The Los Angeles Dodgers bombed the youngster in 3 1/3 innings of a 12-1 thumping that relegated the Giants to second place at a time when baseball didn't have a wild-card entry into the playoffs.

The Giants can't be eliminated from playoff contention Saturday, but it'll be up to Blach to help the team retain its one-game edge over the St. Louis Cardinals for the last playoff spot in the National League.

The Giants (85-75) will begin the day one game behind the New York Mets (86-74), who currently reside in the top wild-card position. The Cardinals (84-76) need a win Saturday and a Giants loss to forge a tie entering the final day of the regular season.

Blach did not respond well to his first major-league start under playoff-race pressure last Sunday in San Diego, allowing two runs, four hits and three walks in three innings in a 4-3 loss.

The 25-year-old did shut out the Dodgers in a previous three-inning relief stint, but that was after LA had built a 9-3 lead and was coasting.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy has faith in his second-time starter, who got the nod over more experienced right-hander Albert Suarez.

"I have a lot of confidence in Ty," the veteran skipper said. "He'll handle this just fine. He's a tough competitor."

Blach will be up against Dodgers ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who will be making his final playoff prep.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled his No. 2 starter, Rich Hill, after five innings Friday night, then watched the Giants rally from a 3-2 deficit to win 9-3.

Kershaw is attempting to work his way back into top form after having missed 10 weeks with a back injury.

The standout has progressed from three innings to five, six and seven in his four starts since returning from the injury on Sept 9. The six-inning start came Sept. 19 against the Giants, a game the Dodgers won 2-1.

Kershaw didn't get the win in that game, but nonetheless has posted an 18-7 record and 1.58 ERA in 34 career starts against the Giants.

He will have five days off before starting Game 1 of the series against the Nationals.

Roberts believes the Dodgers, who clinched the NL West last weekend, are benefiting from playing the Giants on the eve of the postseason.

"That's a very good ballclub," he said. "They fight, they compete and they've won. They're fighting for their lives over there, so it's good for our guys to play a team like that, especially in this environment."