At long last it’s Giants vs. Dodgers in the postseason.
There’s not much left to be said that hasn’t already been said. If your heart rate isn’t in the 100s, even hours before the first pitch of the first game, that’s a you problem, and nothing I can say will fix it.
It was always going to come to this. Even as we rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals to beat the Dodgers in the NL Wild Card Game, we knew it would come to this.
How could it not? The behemoth Dodgers and the overachieving Giants, going toe-to-toe all season long, winning 106 and 107 games, respectively, facing off in the postseason for the first time despite a long, long-standing rivalry.
They played 19 games in the season, and it could not have been closer. The Giants won 10 and lost nine; the Dodgers outscored the Giants by two runs.
The Giants kept the Dodgers at bay all year long, by the tiniest of margins. Now they have to do so for one more week.
National League Division Series details
Game 1: Friday, 6:37 p.m. PT, Oracle Park
Game 2: Saturday, 6:07 p.m. PT, Oracle Park
Game 3: Monday, 6:37 p.m. PT, Dodger Stadium
Game 4: Tuesday, 6:07 p.m. PT, Dodger Stadium (if necessary)
Game 5: Thursday, 6:07 p.m. PT, Oracle Park (if necessary)
Where they stand
San Francisco Giants
Record: 107-55, 1st in the NL West, 1st in the NL, 1st in MLB
Run differential: +210, 2nd in the NL West, 2nd in the NL, 2nd in MLB
Postseason seeding: 1st seed
Momentum: 1-game winning streak, 8-2 in their last 10 games
Los Angeles Dodgers
Record: 106-56 (1-0 in the postseason), 2nd in the NL West, 2nd in the NL, 2nd in MLB
Run differential: +269, 1st in the NL West, 1st in the NL, 1st in MLB
Postseason seeding: Wild Card/4th seed
Momentum: 8-game winning streak, 9-1 in their last 10 games
Season series: Giants won 10-9
Five Giants to watch
Camilo Doval: Jake McGee returned to the roster last weekend, though curiously didn’t pitch in the blowout clincher against the San Diego Padres. He hasn’t pitched in a game since September 12. Since then, Doval has taken the role of closer, a remarkable achievement for someone who made his debut early in the season, and gave up 10 runs in 10.2 innings before getting optioned. Doval returned in August for one appearance, then again in September for good. And in those 16 appearances? 16.1 innings, 8 hits, 3 walks, 0 runs, 24 strikeouts. Maybe McGee returns to the closer role, and maybe he doesn’t. Either way, the Giants will trust Doval, with 27 big league innings to his name, in some of the tensest moments this series.
Logan Webb: Webb opened the season as the fifth starter, and was expected by many to be optioned when Alex Wood got healthy. Kevin Gausman opened the season as the team’s ace, was voted to the All-Star Game, and will earn plenty of Cy Young votes. Despite all that, Webb has been nominated as the team’s starter for Game 1, which means he’ll likely be the starter for Game 5, should the series go that long (and we all expect it to). That’s neither an indictment of Gausman, nor of the Giants brain trust. It’s just the best way to explain how good Webb became, and how fast. Here’s what he did in his last 20 games: 116.1 innings, 92 hits, 6 home runs, 22 walks, 125 strikeouts, 2.40 ERA, 2.41 FIP. Against a long-ball driven Dodgers team, that home run suppression could be critical.
Anthony DeSclafani: Disco had a rather remarkable season, but it looks a whole helluva lot better if you omit his six starts against the Dodgers. Doing so yields you this sensational line: 140.2 innings, 108 hits, 13 home runs, 27 walks, 125 strikeouts, 37 earned runs. But here’s what he did against the Dodgers: 27 innings, 33 hits, 6 home runs, 15 walks, 27 strikeouts, 22 earned runs. He’ll likely start Game 4, and the Giants need him at his best.
LaMonte Wade Jr. There have been few stories this season as great as that of Wade, whom the Giants traded for a player who likely would have been designated for assignment otherwise. Wade became an integral part of the roster, filling in seamlessly when Brandon Belt was injured (twice), and becoming an outfield staple when Belt was healthy. But mostly he developed a reputation for being as clutch as clutch gets. In the ninth inning and beyond, Wade hit 16-29 with 14 runs batted in. In 61 plate appearances that Baseball Reference classifies as high leverage, Wade hit .407/.431/.648. Everyone expects these games to come down to the wire, and the Dodgers high-leverage relievers are mostly right-handed. Wade will have his chance to play hero. Maybe even more than once.
Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford: Crawford was the Giants best player this season, who will receive ample consideration for MVP. Posey is their leader, the face of the franchise, the Hall of Famer who everyone looks to. With their captain, Belt, out with injury, these two are the only Giants remaining from the earlier World Series runs. Everyone will look for them to provide magic once again.
Five Dodgers to watch
Walker Buehler: Here’s what Buehler did in his first five starts against the Giants this year: 34 innings, 20 hits, 8 walks, 32 strikeouts, 3 earned runs. Here’s what he did in his sixth and final start against the Giants: 3 innings, 7 hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 6 earned runs. That’s the story of two different pitchers, and since Buehler is set to open and close the series (should it go five games), he becomes highly critical.
Kenley Jansen: I maintain that Dodgers fans are overly critical of Jansen when he blows saves, especially considering that the 12-year Dodger is a three-time All-Star who finished the season with a 2.22 ERA and 3.08 FIP. But he struggled against the Giants this year in a massive way. In eight games, here’s Jansen’s line: 6.2 innings, 10 hits, 1 home run, 8 walks, 10 strikeouts, 9 earned runs, with 4 saves and 3 losses. Hope that there’s something about the Giants that Jansen struggles with … or that his foibles against the team get in his head.
Trea Turner: For one reason or another, Max Scherzer is the name that gets pointed out when the Dodgers reloaded at the deadline in a deal with the Washington Nationals. But Turner was arguably the bigger prize, as he quietly led the Majors in position player WAR, per Fangraphs. The Dodgers are full of big-name players, so it’s easy to overlook the mid-season acquisition, even though he just might be their best player.
Max Scherzer: But that Scherzer guy is pretty darn good too, though the Giants will thankfully only face him once this series.
Cody Bellinger: Apologies to the many Dodgers hitters, such as Will Smith, and Mookie Betts, and Corey Seager, and Justin Turner, who very much deserve their flowers here. I still want to focus on Bellinger. Of the Giants 14 position players on their NLDS roster, their worst hitter is backup catcher Curt Casali, with an OPS+ of 81 (OPS+ scales OPS, with park adjustments, so that the average player is 100). Only two other players finished below average: Tommy La Stella at 92, and Alex Dickerson at 95. Cody Bellinger — 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger — had an OPS+ of 45. That’s lower than José Álvarez. His slash line this year, in 350 plate appearances, was .165/.240/.302. Madison Bumgarner’s slash line in 11 seasons with the Giants was .177/.228/.303. He’s the only regular hitter in this series who is a glaring liability in the batter’s box, and yet I’m still terrified of him.