Giants pushed to decisive Game 5 by rivals

October 13th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- The Giants and Dodgers’ epic battle for the National League West came down to the final day of the regular season. Fittingly, their historic matchup in the NL Division Series will come down to the wire as well.

The Giants couldn’t close out the Dodgers following a 7-2 loss in Game 4 on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, setting the stage for a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday at Oracle Park. The victor will advance to the NL Championship Series to face the Braves, who eliminated the Brewers with a 5-4 win in Game 4 on Tuesday.

The Giants and Dodgers have been in lockstep all year, but Thursday will mark the 24th and final showdown of the season between the longtime rivals, who have won 109 games apiece in 2021. Logan Webb will start for the Giants, opposite Dodgers left-hander Julio Urías.   

“I feel like our team and the Dodgers team have both been playing meaningful games for awhile now,” Buster Posey said. “Obviously, this one coming up on Thursday is the most meaningful to this point. It should be fun.”

Thursday will mark only the third winner-take-all game in the history of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry. Before relocating to the West Coast, the storied franchises met in a three-game tiebreaker in 1951, when the New York Giants defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers on Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ’Round the World” to clinch the NL pennant in the decisive Game 3 at the Polo Grounds. 

The Giants also prevailed in their three-game tiebreaker against the Dodgers in 1962, scoring four runs in the ninth inning of the decisive Game 3 at Dodger Stadium to punch their ticket to the World Series. Given the circumstances, the looming confrontation feels ripe for more October theater.

"This is what baseball wants,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “All the series are done, so we're going to be the only show in town. If you have a pulse or you're a sports fan, you better be watching Dodgers-Giants. It's going to be a great one."

The Giants will attempt to turn the page on a lackluster effort across the board on Tuesday. 's postseason debut proved to be one to forget, as he recorded only five outs before being chased by the Dodgers, who continued to torment the 31-year-old right-hander this season.

DeSclafani faced 10 batters and gave up five hits in his first start since Oct. 1, departing with the Giants trailing, 2-0, in the bottom of the second inning. He fell to 0-4 with a 7.53 ERA over seven starts against Los Angeles this year, compared to 13-4 with a 2.37 ERA against everyone else.

“I don't think he had his best stuff,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “I don't think he had his best command, and I think the Dodgers were getting good swings off him.”

DeSclafani’s short start resulted in a de facto bullpen game for the Giants, who were subsequently forced to use seven relievers to cover 6 1/3 innings.

Mookie Betts launched a two-run shot to the opposite field off lefty Jarlín García to extend the Dodgers’ lead to 4-0 in the fourth, but the Giants remained within striking distance for most of the night after Los Angeles went only 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base.

LaMonte Wade Jr. made a leaping over-the-shoulder catch in front of the left-field wall to rob Chris Taylor of extra bases and help García escape a bases-loaded jam in the third, but the Giants couldn’t capitalize on the momentum they generated from yet another big defensive play.

Their offense couldn’t get much going against Dodgers ace Walker Buehler, who allowed only one run on three hits over 4 1/3 innings while starting on three days’ rest for the first time in his career. The Giants loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but they pushed only one run across on Darin Ruf’s RBI groundout.

Brandon Crawford doubled and scored on Kris Bryant’s RBI groundout to cut the deficit to 5-2 in the eighth, but the Dodgers pulled away for good on Will Smith’s two-run shot off Jake McGee in the bottom half of the inning.

While the Giants couldn’t close out the NLDS on Tuesday, they’ll feel good about their chances in Game 5 as they head back home.

At 24 years and 330 days old, Webb is poised to become the youngest pitcher in Giants history to start a winner-take-all postseason game, but he’s already shown the ability to thrive in high-pressure moments. He struck out 10 over 7 2/3 shutout innings in a masterful Game 1 performance and will be fully rested as he takes the mound with the season on the line for the Giants on Thursday.

Kevin Gausman, who was charged with four runs over 5 1/3 innings in Game 2, will be available to pitch in relief as well, giving the bullpen much-needed coverage following its strenuous effort on Tuesday.

While teams playing in their home ballparks are 61-61 all-time in winner-take-all postseason games, that includes a mere 14-21 mark in Game 5 of the Division Series (1-5 since 2016). These numbers exclude the 2020 Division Series, played at neutral sites.

The Giants are undefeated in Webb’s 13 starts at Oracle Park, where he’s gone 7-0 with a 1.78 ERA over his last 14 appearances this year.

“I think his confidence has just continued to grow,” Posey said. “I think the stuff has gotten better because he believes that he has elite pitches that can compete with any lineup and I think ... he's shown, I guess, in the last game of the season, and then in the first game of this series, that he can keep his poise, and I think that bodes well for Thursday.”