It's fitting, for two historic rivals who couldn't have been any more tightly matched over these past five months, that their season finale arrives with this context: The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are tied for the best record in the sport with only 26 games remaining.
The teams -- which brought an 8-8 head-to-head record and a 68-68 head-to-head score into this weekend's series -- split the first two games at Oracle Park, creating a rubber match for Sunday Night Baseball (7 p.m. ET on ESPN), when Walker Buehler takes the ball against a string of Giants relievers.
The Giants weren't supposed to be here. This was seen as another transition year under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, one in which the Giants would mostly tread water. Meanwhile, the Dodgers were expected to be locking horns with a budding rival -- the San Diego Padres, a team L.A. is scheduled to play six more times this month.
But the Padres have faded, fighting now not for the division title but for a wild-card spot, and the National League West has become a two-team race.
Twelve of the 18 games between the Giants and Dodgers this season have been decided by three runs or fewer. Five have featured a disappearing lead in the ninth, and one, on May 28, saw Mike Tauchman rob Albert Pujols of a walk-off home run. Max Muncy flipped his bat on May 27, Kenley Jansen walked a tightrope on June 29, Dave Roberts blew a gasket on July 22, Cody Bellinger threw wide on July 27 and Trea Turner threw high on Friday.
The Dodgers, winners of eight consecutive division titles, and the Giants, five years removed from their last winning season, are both on pace for triple-digit wins and are tracking toward a potential division series showdown. In the divisional era, which dates back to 1969, there have been only four instances of multiple 100-win teams residing within the same division, according to ESPN Stats & Information:
2018 AL East: Red Sox (108), Yankees (100)
2001 AL West: Mariners (116), Athletics (102)
1993 NL West: Braves (104), Giants (103)
1980 AL East: Yankees (103), Orioles (100)
The 1980 Orioles and the 1993 Giants went home immediately after superlative regular seasons, while the 2001 A's were granted a best-of-five series and the 2018 Yankees were promised only a one-game playoff. The latter fate awaits either the Dodgers or Giants, playing under what might be the final year of this playoff format. Failing to win this division means having to win a sudden-death game for the right to advance into a larger sample size.
Given those stakes, and how evenly matched the teams have been to date, we solicited the help of a handful of scouts to determine which team has the edge in five key areas.