Three score and ten years ago, the New York Giants faced off against the Brooklyn Dodgers in a three-game playoff for command of the National League pennant. Those Giants had won 37 of their last 44 games to catch the surging Dodgers, ending the season with identical win-loss records of 96-58. Those Giants won the first game of their three-game playoff, the last time the Giants and Dodgers met in something approximating the postseason.
These 2021 San Francisco Giants won 21 of their last 27 games to hold off the surging Los Angeles Dodgers, playing from the position of power this time, narrowly clinging onto a one game lead. They ended the season 107-55, a game above the 106-56 Dodgers. Tonight, these Giants also won the first game of their now three-game series. The Dodgers have been shut out just seven times this season: two of those shutouts have been in this NLDS, after Logan Webb’s Friday night gem and tonight’s multifaceted performance.
Tonight, the pitching carved up the Los Angeles lineup: the young flamethrower Camilo Doval hauntingly calm in his first six-out save in the major leagues, the Giants staff allowing five hits and two walks across the nine innings with six strikeouts. The Giants offense did just enough to win, scoring one run on three hits. So how did it get done?
This game began somewhat auspiciously for the Giants. Max Scherzer, the potential NL Cy Young winner, had trouble finding the strike zone in Tommy La Stella’s at-bat. He ended up walking La Stella, but struck out Mike Yastrzemski on seven pitches before giving up a single to his archrival, Buster Posey. (The last time they faced in the postseason, Posey smashed a home run off Scherzer, who at that point was a member of the Detroit Tigers, en route to the Giants sweep of the 2012 World Series). Despite threatening, the Giants did not score as Scherzer got both Crawford and Bryant to swing and miss for strikeouts.
By comparison, Alex Wood had a quiet bottom of the first, assuaging Giants’ fans fears as Wood had been both excellent and occasionally terrifying in the regular season. It did take 19 pitches, but Wood didn’t allow a baserunner in his bottom of the first. He wouldn’t allow a baserunner until an Albert Pujols single in the bottom of the third, where Pujols made it all the way to third base due to a Scherzer sacrifice bunt and a passed ball by Posey (extremely rare sighting: Posey had only 2 passed balls during the regular season).
Though Bryant added a single in the top of the fourth, the Giants bats were unable to get any kind of genuine rally going against Scherzer until Evan Longoria lofted a deep fly ball to left center that made its way halfway up the bleachers with AJ Pollock watching it go. The score was 1-0 Giants after five innings.
Alex Wood began to run into trouble in the bottom of the fifth, as he gave up another single to Pujols. Although he got the next two batters out, he was at 98 pitches through 4.2 and after a mound visit, Kapler decided to relieve him in favor of Tyler Rogers, who got the ever dangerous Mookie Betts to ground out to Brandon Crawford.
Rogers got the sixth inning as well, couching a Justin Turner single around two lineouts and a groundout. Kapler decided to hope for another inning out of Rogers, but in the seventh, Rogers gave up two singles with one out and Kapler made the decision to bring in Jake McGee, who struck out Austin Barnes and then watched as Crawford did this to a 100mph Mookie Betts bullet:
Crawford’s leap saved at least a run, if not more. In having the insane privilege of getting to watch Crawford for the last decade, we can forget the beautiful majesty with which he plays the field, making even the most difficult of plays seem routine. This one, however, he let extend into all its glory, reaching up somewhere into the stratosphere, elongating his limbs until he brought the ball down safely. Belt may be the Baby Giraffe – but tonight Crawford imbued himself with the quiet grace of the animalistic, as elegant a play as he’s ever made.
Then; it was time, time for the bitter anxiety of attempting to protect a one-run lead in Los Angeles when the bats go silent, when the only thing you can turn to is your bullpen, and you’ve already used your two most reliable relievers.
Kapler made the fascinating decision to bring Camilo Doval in, he of the scoreless September, of the 100mph heater and the wicked slider that makes grown men swing out of their shoes like they’re seeing ghosts somewhere beyond the frame. Nobody was positive what Kapler’s plan was; most seemed to believe he was going to ask Doval to go for six outs, despite Doval never doing so in the Majors. Some thought he’d ride Doval until uncertainty and then bring in Kervin Castro’s and his menacing curveball should Doval falter.
What would have happened had Doval been shaky we will never know. Because with the calm demeanor of a ten-year veteran, the 24-year old rookie retired six in a row. One ground ball, one strikeout, four flyballs, the last thwacking off the bat of Gavin Lux before Steven Duggar settled under it on the warning track. Los Angeles got to its feet – and then had to sit down, as the Giants poured onto the field, victors for the first game in Los Angeles, shutting out the Dodgers for the second time in three games, quieting the bats, the naysayers, and heightening my heartrate all at once.
Here’s every out from Camilo Doval’s heroic 2-inning save pic.twitter.com/ilhwVZeoL7— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 12, 2021
With this win in their pocket, the Giants are now just one win away from clinching the NLDS against the Dodgers. Players of the game go to Evan Longoria, for his booming homerun that silenced Los Angeles; Crawford, for his majestic defense saving a run (and perhaps more), and Camilo Doval, who did everything he was asked for and then some. Let’s go Giants!