Dodgers @ Giants 2021 NLDS Game 1: Buehler vs. Webb + series preview

Photo by: Stacie Wheeler

It has only been a possibility for 26 years, but it’s still hard to believe the Dodgers and Giants are meeting in the playoffs for the first time ever. And oh man, this is gonna be great/suck.

Before we get to the preview, here’s the schedule for the series.

There’s no way this doesn’t go five games, right? Maximum pain and such.

Here are the lineups.

And now the series preview.

By the numbers

OffenseDodgersGiants
Runs/Game5.124.96
AVG.244.249
OBP.330.329
SLG.429.440
wRC+106108
HR237241
SB6566
BB%9.89.7
K%22.623.6

Bet you wouldn’t have guessed the teams were so evenly matched on offense, huh? The Dodgers led the National League in runs scored. They also led the NL in BB%, but you can see just how close the Giants were to them in that department. And the Giants led the NL home runs and slugging percentage — coming from a team without a 30-home run hitter (Brandon Belt had 29).

The Dodgers’ offense took a step back from last season, but I suspect the shorter 60-game season had something to do with that (and also injuries). I wrote earlier this week about the Dodgers needing someone to step up in Max Muncy‘s absence, and that was the duo of Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor in Wednesday’s Wild Card Game victory over the Dodgers. LA’s Top 4 — Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Trea Turner — are as formidable a quartet in the game, but they’re probably going to need some help in this series, let alone the rest of the playoffs (should they advance).

On the Giants’ side, they’re led by a rag-tag bunch of veterans who aren’t what they once were, yet are performing quite well as a group. The aforementioned Belt, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria and Buster Posey have been the big bats in the lineup, but they’ve also gotten significant contributions from the likes of former Dodger greats Darin Ruf, Austin Slater and Donovan Solano, but also guys like Steven Duggar, Wilmer Flores, Mike Yastrzemski and the incomparable Lamonte Wade Jr., whom Jon Weisman has been on all season. And I’ve made it this far into the graf without even mentioning the 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant (.262/.344/.444, 113 wRC+ with SF), whom the Giants acquired at the trade deadline.

Starting PitchingDodgersGiants
ERA2.933.44
FIP3.333.43
xFIP3.523.62
K%28.024.6
BB%6.46.6
SwStr%12.812.1
BAA.207.234
HR/91.080.92
WAR20.416.5

On paper, the Dodgers have an edge in the starting rotation. Of course, those regular season numbers include the contributions of Clayton Kershaw — who is out for the postseason — and the selfish asshole Trevor Bauer. But they also include Walker Buehler (Game 1 starter), Julio Urias (Game 2) and Max Scherzer (Game 3) — all of whom have helped carry the Dodgers at one point or another this season. Tony Gonsolin is lined up for a potential Game 4 start, but he’ll probably be on a short leash — especially with David Price on the roster.

The Giants are going with a Logan WebbKevin Gausman-led rotation. Both were really good in 2021, and Gausman might have made himself a ton of money because of his All-Star campaign. The Giants have some options after that. With Muncy out, they suddenly appear slightly more vulnerable against righties than lefties, so Frisco could go with Anthony DeSclafani in Game 3 over old friend Alex Wood, with Wood going in a Game 4. The Dodgers lit up DeSclafani well a few times this season (7.33 ERA in six starts), but he threw six scoreless innings against them on Sept. 3 to somewhat exorcise those demons.

Relief PitchingDodgersGiants
ERA3.162.99
FIP3.833.71
xFIP4.074.20
K%25.522.6
BB%10.57.4
SwStr%12.210.9
BAA.202.218
HR/90.890.95
WAR6.55.4

The Dodgers’ bullpen had its struggles this season — especially in the walk department. But if Wednesday’s game tells us anything, it tells us who Dave Roberts trusts most. While Phil Bickford and Alex Vesia were nice surprises, they didn’t even get up in the bullpen ahead of the five guys who followed up Scherzer — Joe Kelly, Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel and Kenley Jansen. Still, they’re going to be needed in this series. But the final trio of Knebel, Treinen and Jansen have looked awfully tough this season.

Jake McGee leads the Giants’ bullpen, as he looks like — for a second consecutive year — to be a great free-agent signing. Tyler Rogers and his sidewinding ways give the ‘pen a different look, and he was effective for SF this season. And aside from another old friend in Tony Watson, you probably don’t know a ton of the other Giant relievers. They have a good balance of lefties and righties, so expect Jose Alvarez, Jarlin Garcia, Dominic Leone and Zack Littell to get plenty of opportunities to pitch in this series.

Head-to-Head

The Giants won the season series 10-9 over the Dodgers. The most memorable moment may have been the now-former Giant Mike Tauchman robbing Albert Pujols of a walk-off home run back in May.

Rosters

X-Factor

Cody Bellinger

You wouldn’t really expect a former league MVP and LCS MVP to be an “X-Factor,” but that’s where we are with Bellinger right now. He has a chance to make a lot of people forget about his extremely subpar season with a strong playoff performance. And he showed in the Wild Card Game how he can make a difference in the game without hitting a home run. He stole two bases and got on base three times out of the No. 8 spot in the lineup. He has a chance to impact the game on both sides of ball, and strangely enough, he doesn’t have to hit homers to do so.

Lamonte Wade Jr.

“Late Night” has been on all season for the Giants. He has come with big hit after big hit. He’s hitting .362/.444/.511 in “late and close” situations. If he can continue that kind of success into the postseason, the Giants are going to be hard to beat.

——

A 106-win team playing a 107-win team in a 5-game series. That’s almost unfathomable. They’re the two best teams in the game for a reason, and it should be quite the battle.

If I don’t survive this (which I probably won’t), replace me with someone better. That shouldn’t be too hard.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.