Webb among elite after pair of NLDS gems

October 15th, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- When started Game 162 of the regular season, it was the biggest start of his career -- until it wasn’t. That outing was soon usurped by Game 1 of the National League Division Series, then by Game 5. On three occasions, the Giants handed Webb the ball at pivotal points in their season. And on three occasions, he delivered a defining performance.

Webb continued to etch his name into franchise lore, even as the Giants were eliminated in Game 5 of the NLDS by the Dodgers on Thursday in a gut-wrenching 2-1 loss. Across seven stellar innings, Webb allowed one run and one walk while striking out seven. With a trip to the NL Championship Series on the line, Webb did his part, putting a stamp on one of the greatest three-start runs by a Giants pitcher in recent memory.

“I think he proved that he’s a guy you can build a staff around, that he enjoys being the guy in a big situation,” said catcher Buster Posey.

No situation was higher stakes than the one Webb stepped into on Thursday. It was win or go home. It was Giants-Dodgers. Prior to the game, legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully called Game 5 “the most important game in the history of their rivalry.” Webb embraced the pressure and played to the moment.

Through five innings, Webb traded zeros with Dodgers pitchers Corey Knebel, Brusdar Graterol and Julio Urías. He was ready. He was sharp. He was on.

The Dodgers, though, would finally have their say, scratching out their first run against Webb this series in the sixth. Mookie Betts, who finished with four hits, singled, then stole second. Corey Seager smacked a soft opposite-field double. Webb limited the damage to the one run, then yelled into his glove as he walked back to the dugout. That moment may have been the breaking point earlier in his career. But not on this night.

After Darin Ruf evened the score with a mammoth solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, Webb came out for the seventh and ended his night -- and his first playoff series -- on his own terms. On Webb’s 106th pitch, the second most he’s thrown in a game, he capped an eight-pitch battle against Cody Bellinger with a perfect slider in the dirt, getting the slugger swinging. Webb let out a cathartic yell as he strutted off the mound for the final time this season, the last hurrah of a transformative year.

“At every stage, you’re asking yourself, ‘Is Logan Webb the best option to get the next three hitters out?’” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “Every inning that we sent him out there, we felt like, yes, yes and yes. He just continued to be the best option.”

In his first taste of October baseball, Webb was nothing short of phenomenal. The company he keeps supports him as much as the numbers.

Across 14 2/3 innings, he allowed one run with 17 strikeouts to one walk. In Game 1, Webb became just the third pitcher in franchise history to pitch 7 2/3 innings, allow no runs and strike out at least 10 batters in a postseason game, joining Madison Bumgarner (2014) and Tim Lincecum (2010). With Thursday’s outing, Webb joined Bumgarner, Christy Mathewson, Ryan Vogelsong and Jack Sanford as the only pitchers in franchise history with multiple outings of seven innings and one earned run or fewer in a single playoff series.

“I learned [the playoffs are] a lot of fun,” Webb said. “The crowd was just awesome. That was really cool.”

When the season began, it would’ve been almost inconceivable to imagine Webb in this situation.

Webb wasn’t a lock to start for the Giants out of Spring Training. He had shown promise in his first two seasons, but the consistency wasn’t there. He cracked the starting rotation, briefly pitched in relief and then returned to starting. A right shoulder strain later landed him on the injured list. It was an eventful first half.

As soon as the season transitioned to its latter half, however, Webb shoved. His 2.9 fWAR was tied with Walker Buehler for second in the Majors in the second half. He logged nine straight quality starts. The league started to take notice.

With every subsequent start, Webb’s performance felt less like an aberration. Games 1 and 5 served to confirm that point. They may have just been Webb’s personal coronation.

“I don’t think Logan could’ve pitched any better,” said Kapler.