At some point during the San Francisco Giants 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS, my mind started to wander to past iterations of this team. It’s a silly thing to do, really — get lost in rearview daydreams when a 107-win team is sitting in front of you, playing their rivals in the postseason for the first time.
But I couldn’t help myself. As Logan Webb mowed down Dodger hitter after Dodger hitter — looking as calm and composed as you needed him to be, and as enthusiastic as you hoped he’d be — my mind turned on a second monitor, and started replaying Tim Lincecum’s 2010 NLDS start against the Atlanta Braves. When that game finished (which thankfully only took up about an inning of the present game, it’s wild how slow baseball has gotten), my internal second monitor turned to the 2014 playoffs to watch Madison Bumgarner. All of his appearances, really.
As those moments of happy postseason pitcher dominance fluttered through my brain’s eyes, my actual eyes took in more Webb earning more swings and misses and more weak contact.
It’s easy to become a prisoner of the moment when watching sports. You need only be a fan for a handful of years to watch a thousand starts — is the one you watched really that good, or is it just the delicious dessert sitting in front of you, and not the superior one you ate, digested, and forgot about years ago?
Thankfully the internet exists to provide context. I was not being a prisoner of the moment by adding Webb’s performance to my internal library and color-coding it with the same laminated shade that sits on “Lincecum, Tim, 2010” and “Bumgarner, Madison, 2014.” I was simply admiring one of the best pitching performances in Giants history.
There have been three playoff outings ever from a San Francisco Giants pitcher with at least 7.2 innings, 0 runs and 10+ strikeouts.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 9, 2021
Tim Lincecum, Game 1, 2010 NLDS vs. Atlanta
Madison Bumgarner, 2014 wild card game vs. Pittsburgh
Logan Webb, Game 1, 2021 NLDS vs. Los Angeles
Webb didn’t finish the game, as Lincecum and Bumgarner did. He was lifted for Tyler Rogers with two outs in the eighth, after allowing a single. But he was only deprived of that opportunity because it’s a different manager, a different front office, and a different bullpen. It wasn’t an indictment of what he did.
Because here’s what he did in those 7.2 innings: 5 hits, 0 walks, 0 hit batters, 0 runs, 10 strikeouts. He needed just 92 pitches, and 64 of them were strikes. He comfortably worked around two errors (one of which was his own). He gave up no hits that scared you, and held the Dodgers hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position.
And here’s how he worked his 10 strikeouts:
83 mph slider
94 mph fastball
81 mph slider
81 mph slider
86 mph changeup
86 mph changeup
81 mph slider
87 mph changeup
81 mph slider
88 mph changeup
And when he wasn’t striking them out, he was leaving them for dead with weak contact.
In his 7⅔ innings, Logan Webb had 10 strikeouts and has induced 5 grounders to himself— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) October 9, 2021
He had it all.
But, like Lincecum and Bumgarner before him, he was not alone.
A pitcher is (almost always) only as good as his defense, and the Giants turned their most impressive double play since the legendary Panik-Crawford-Belt one in the 2014 World Series, which I still think about every morning when I wake up.
We’ll be talking about this one for a while.
One of my favorite things about immaculate double plays is that you think it can’t get more impressive, and then you see the alternate camera angle and you realize you were very, very wrong.
It’s a testament to Webb — who went from only making the Opening Day roster because of an injury, to being a franchise corner stone in a matter of months — that I’m nearly 700 words into this article and I haven’t mentioned Buster Posey.
There it is. There’s his mention. Buster Freaking Posey. Gerald Dempsey Posey III.
Posey had waited so long to get back to the postseason, and most of us wondered if he’d ever get the chance. It was poetic that not only did he get that chance, but when he finally made it back to meaningful October baseball, it was while swinging such a hot bat that he was hitting cleanup.
It was the right move, and Posey wasted no time proving it, hitting one of the most impressive home runs I’ve ever seen in the first inning.
Before you watch this video, know this: the batter before him, Brandon Crawford, hit the hell out of the baseball. He hit it 103.4 mph, with a 40-degree launch angle. Perhaps a touch high, but it had the sound. It had the look. The crowd erupted. Crawford looked ready to break into a trot.
And then it landed about 40 feet shy of the wall.
So when Posey came up to bat, you knew how the atmosphere was playing. You knew it wouldn’t be easy to get a ball over the fence in that part of the yard.
Buster ain’t having it.
Posey hit an opposite field home run that, had it not landed on top of one of the water cannons, might have been the first right-handed splash hit in Oracle Park history.
No one yet knew how well Webb would pitch. Had you known, you would have started celebrating right then and there. That was all that was needed.
But just because it was all that was needed doesn’t mean it was all that was wanted.
The Giants, who hit more home runs than any other NL team this year, craved more. Kris Bryant, who entered the postseason on a massive slump before hitting a perfect 3-3 on Friday, wanted more.
Crawford, perhaps still seething that the air of the city he loves so much would betray him so deeply, wanted more.
Craw sends one out to center‼️pic.twitter.com/nxd2mn6gcl— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) October 9, 2021
And when the dust settled — and I mean the literal dust, as the final pitch of the night was a 101 mph fastball from Camilo Doval, which surely sent a trillion flecks of dust exploding from Posey’s mitt — the Giants had won 4-0.
They struck first against their rivals, and now need to win two of the remaining four games to advance.
Don’t think about those games yet. Just think about this one. Just revel in the emotions of Game 1. Sink into your feelings.
They feel like this: