The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers will play Game 5 of their NLDS series tonight, with the winner advancing to the NLCS, just one step away from the World Series. It’s rare to see two 100+ wins teams meet up in the Divisional Round of the MLB postseason, and even rarer to see these two clubs facing off against each other. In the game’s history, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, bitter divisional rivals separated by 380.1 miles, have never met in the postseason.
Lucky for us, this NLDS has lived up to the hype and then some, showcasing the physical side and mental side of baseball.
Game 1 gave us the pleasure of watching Logan Webb pitch an absolute gem, striking out 10 Dodgers over his 7.2 innings of work. It’s no wonder to see why he’s getting the ball in Game 5. Webb and the Giants bullpen shut down the loud LA bats, but the box score tells a different story.
While Webb’s night was fantastic, Buster Posey‘s first-inning home run off Walker Buehler set the tone for the series. This series would be a staring contest, and the first team to blink would be the Dodgers.
After Posey gave his team some breathing room, Webb settled in, only allowing two Dodgers to reach second base over the next 6.2 innings. After Kris Bryant gave San Francisco an insurance run thanks to his solo shot off Buehler, Giants manager Gabe Kapler turned to bullpen arms Tyler Rogers and Camilo Doval to lock down the win.
This move to the pen would be the first brilliant piece of Kapler’s managerial stylings we’ll see in this series.
In Game 3, after only giving up two hits in 4.2 innings of work, Kapler opted for Tyler Rogers, pulling Alex Wood from the game. After a renaissance season in San Francisco, one of many for the Giants rotation, Wood seemed primed to go deep into Game 3. But Kapler had other plans. Once again, it would be Rogers and Doval, with Jack McGee tossing 0.2 innings in between.
The brilliance of this move comes not from Wood being a lefty and Rogers a righty, but move the unconventional pitching deliveries of Kapler’s arms. Wood has a herky-jerk motion that can catch hitters off guard and make it difficult to pick up the ball. Rogers, on the literal other hand, is one of the few submarine pitchers in the league. Kapler didn’t just force the Dodger hitters to pick up the ball from a different side of the mound, but from a different height altogether.
The subsequent move to Doval adds another wrinkle to the Dodgers’ problems. Doval in his rookie season has dazzled with high velocity, touching 104.5 MPH in a minor-league appearance. By Kapler’s hand, the Dodgers have now gone from left-handed herky-jerk to right-handed submarine, to right-handed flamethrower, all the while failing to score a run. This maneuver by Kapler was a chess move seen on The Queen’s Gambit and one that paid off as the Giants took Game 3, 1-0.
While the Giants were playing Chess, the Dodgers have opted for Checkers, but it’s worked out for them, as evidenced by the tied series.
The Dodgers have always been a team built on offensive power. Every single member of this team has home run power, and more than half have problematic speed on the basepaths. Will Smith and Mookie Betts have continued their aerial assault on opposing outfielders, with both players accounting for all of Los Angeles’ three home runs. But the real sneak attack has come from Cody Bellinger, who was a shell of himself all season.
With Max Muncy out with an injured wrist, the Dodgers needed an option at first base. Albert Pujols wasn’t an option, and Bellinger has patrolled center for the majority of his season. Seemingly out of options, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts leaned on his struggling slugger, and the results have proved him right.
In the first four games of this season, Bellinger has three hits, amassed a .273 average, and has knocked in two of the Dodgers’ 16 runs. Comparatively, the former Rookie of the Year and 2019 NL MVP hit an abysmal .165/.240/.302, with a paltry .542 OPS. Bellinger barely matched his 2020 numbers this season, despite playing 39 more games. If Bellinger can stay hot in the series finale, the Dodgers will have another dangerous arrow in the quiver.
The Dodgers arms have given their offense plenty of chances to make noise, with LA’s starters doing a solid job of minimizing damage whenever possible. Both Max Scherzer and Julio Urias only surrendered one run in their two starts, which should make the Giants anxious, as Urias getting the nod for Game 5. Even worse for San Fran? Scherzer will no doubt be ready in the bullpen for relief duties. Will that be enough to stifle the Giants hitters? We’ll find out soon enough.
This postseason has given us some phenomenally historic matchups. The Red Sox defeating their arch-rival New York Yankees in a one-game playoff, the Atlanta Braves taking down the Milwaukee Brewers in a fashion that would make Hank Aaron smile. And now, a winner-take-all finale between the two powerhouses of the National League.
If that doesn’t make you excited for this game, then you might want to check your pulse.
- / 3 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.
- / 2 days ago
It's déjà vu all over again for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves!
- / 2 days ago
Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes It’s important to not lean too hard on hindsight...