SAN FRANCISCO -- If you were looking for perspective Thursday night, you’d have spotted it in Mookie Betts, with his no-big-deal jog in from Oracle Park’s right field after the Dodgers secured a 2-1 win over the Giants in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. In the grand scheme, it was just another mark for a Dodgers team that wins often -- 110 times now in 2021.
Relief pitcher Tony Gonsolin dashed from the bullpen and bumped Betts like something special had happened. Near home plate, happy boys in Pantone 294 pogoed and embraced their screaming pitching ringer and celebration animal, Max Scherzer, whose somewhat disputed check-swing strikeout of Wilmer Flores closed the Dodgers’ series-clinching victory over the 109-win Giants.
Betts was a big reason for all that happiness. By going 4-for-4, he became the only Dodger in history with four hits in a winner-take-all game. Yet Betts’ only signal that the game was significant was his hearty embrace with manager Dave Roberts.
“It’s just step one to our final goal,” Betts said. “We can be happy right now, but I’m of the mindset that you’ve got to turn the page, and you can’t celebrate like you’ve won the World Series trophy.”
Up next? The Dodgers will begin the NL Championship Series against the Braves on Saturday at Atlanta’s Truist Park.
While Betts leads the team in many ways, not everyone followed with his subdued celebration policy. Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, wasn’t going to let his first career save -- regular or postseason -- pass without revelry.
“I’m with Mookie on that,” Scherzer said of Betts’ “step one” line. “Except we can party hard tonight.”
Betts spent much of the game as the Dodgers’ most ardent -- and only -- offensive hope.
Giants starter Logan Webb held the Dodgers to four hits through seven innings. Three were by Betts. The other was Corey Seager’s soft, opposite-field double to left field to drive in Betts, who had singled with one out. But Seager’s hit counted because of Betts’ steal of second base -- which made him 8-for-8 on postseason steal attempts since he joined the Dodgers in a trade with the Red Sox before last season.
“This is when the stars are stars,” Roberts said. “And he’s a superstar.”
Webb had thrown 7 2/3 scoreless innings in the Giants’ 4-0 win in Game 1, during which he baffled the Dodgers by increasing the use of the changeup. Well, two of Betts’ three hits off him came on changeups.
“[Betts is] a pretty incredible player, and pretty incredible guy, honestly,” said Webb, who yielded three hits to just one other player in ‘21, the Padres’ Eric Hosmer on April 30. “He knew the way I attacked him the first game and I tried to do that the same way this one. You just tip your cap.”
Said Giants manager Gabe Kapler: “I still think Logan pitched excellent, even to Mookie. It’s just Mookie got the job done. I don’t think there’s much more than that.”
Betts became the fourth player in AL/NL postseason history with at least four hits and a stolen base in a winner-take-all game, joining the Royals’ George Brett (1985 World Series), the Astros’ Terry Puhl (1980 NLCS) and the Pirates’ Max Carey (1925 World Series).
Since joining the Dodgers, Betts is 32-for-95 (.337) with 17 runs scored in the postseason.
Yet Betts felt no pressure to carry his club. It was fine with him that Cody Bellinger delivered the winning single, off Camilo Doval in the top of the ninth -- a rally that ended with Betts on deck.
“It’s going to take all nine of us to score some runs,” Betts said. “You can’t win games from one part of the lineup. So we did a great job battling all night, keeping our heads in it. We were finally able to push another one across.”