Dodgers, Giants are ready to take rivalry to another level in the NLDS
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants gathered Wednesday night for a poker tournament, splitting the attention between stacking chips and scouting the National League wild-card game for their next opponent.
Giants front-office executive Yeshayah Goldfarb won the tournament, beating manager Gabe Kapler heads-up to outlast the competition. Four hundred miles south, the Los Angeles Dodgers survived the St. Louis Cardinals on Chris Taylor’s walk-off home run to set up the first postseason meeting in a rivalry that has spanned two coasts and 131 years in the NL Division Series.
The ending was heart-stopping, stomach-churning drama. The Giants just nodded their heads, observing the mayhem unsurprised.
“For me, it kind of felt like this was how it was going end up anyways,” Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski said. “I felt like I didn’t even have to watch the game to figure out who we were going to play.”
The victory Wednesday was the Dodgers’ 107th in 2021. The Giants reached that number in Sunday’s regular-season finale to hold off the Dodgers for the NL West title, ending the Dodgers’ eight-year run of divisional supremacy and advancing straight to Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The clubs finished with the best records in the majors. No postseason series in major league history has ever featured teams with more combined wins.
“We’ve been two of the best teams all year in baseball,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “And, so, to see us go head-to-head in the series, it’s really exciting for our players.”
Giants third baseman Evan Longoria argued Thursday that the teams shouldn’t have to meet this early in the postseason.
“I feel like this may also be like a series or a moment where baseball may have to think about restructuring the way that the playoffs happen,” Longoria said. “106 and 107 wins doesn’t feel like a DS matchup, you know?”
The Dodgers outscored San Francisco 80-78 in the clubs’ 19 regular-season meetings, but the Giants took the season series 10-9. It came down to the clubs’ final meeting on Sept. 5. The Giants won that day on “Sunday Night Baseball” 6-4 at Oracle Park, chasing Walker Buehler from the game after he surrendered six runs over three innings. It was Buehler’s shortest start of the season and by far his worst outing against the Giants; he gave up five runs, three earned, across 34 innings in the first five matchups.
A month later, he’ll take the ball Friday in Game 1 to face the Giants for the seventh time in 2021 after recording 11 strikeouts over five innings in his final regular-season start Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“It’s kind of twofold, right?” Buehler said. “They know me and we know them. So not going to talk too much about it, but obviously look and see what we can change. The last one against them wasn’t great but felt good about the ones before that. So, we’ll figure it out.”
The Dodgers have some familiarity with Giants starter Logan Webb, too, having faced him three times. The 24-year-old right-hander surrendered five runs, four earned, in 16 innings over the three starts. He posted his best performance in the third matchup, holding the Dodgers to one run and three hits in six innings on July 27 at Oracle Park. The outing was part of Webb’s second-half emergence as the Giants’ ace, earning him Friday’s assignment. He pitched to a 2.71 ERA with 100 strikeouts over 16 starts. At the other end, the Giants feature another formidable right-hander less familiar to the Dodgers.
Camilo Doval, 24, was the best reliever in the majors in September. The rookie didn’t yield a run in 141/3 innings over 15 appearances. He compiled 20 strikeouts to three walks with a fastball that touches triple digits and emerged as the club’s closer over the regular season’s final week.
“He’s young and inexperienced,” Roberts said. “But he’s shown to pitch huge innings and they have shown that they trust him in leverage.”
Doval is the new anchor of a bullpen that finished with the best cumulative ERA (2.99) in the majors ahead of the second-ranked Dodgers (3.16). The Dodgers’ relief corps accumulated 42/3 scoreless innings in Wednesday’s win to keep them alive as the offense struggled to score without Max Muncy in the middle of the lineup.
Matt Beaty, a left-handed hitter, started at first base in Muncy’s place Wednesday. Roberts hinted Beaty would start there again Friday with Cody Bellinger in center field to cover the expansive ground at Oracle Park. Roberts said the team would carry 12 or 13 pitchers on its roster, up from the 10 they had available for Wednesday.
Julio Urias will start opposite Kevin Gausman in Saturday’s Game 2 with Max Scherzer looming for Game 3 after a disappointing outing Wednesday. Tony Gonsolin could start Game 4 — if there is one — or pitch bulk innings out of the bullpen after an opener or be used as a conventional reliever in the first three games.
The right-hander threw live batting practice during the Dodgers’ workout Thursday evening as a chill swallowed Oracle Park. Music boomed through the empty stadium. Tension will cram it by 6:37 p.m. Friday for a clash everyone felt coming.