We knew this series would go 5 games. The Dodgers (2-2) and Giants (2-2) have played at a neck-to-neck pace all season. After the 7-2 Dodgers victory on Tuesday in Game 4 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium, it all comes down to a winner-take-all-game at Oracle Park on Thursday night.
|6:07 PM||San Francisco|
|RF||Betts||2B||La Stella (L)|
|3B||J. Turner||CF||Bryant (L)|
|CF||Lux (L)||RF||Yastrzemski (L)|
|P||Kenebel (R)||P||Webb (R)|
The Giants won the season series against the Dodgers after a surprisingly successful run. The Dodgers went up 6-3 against the Giants before the All-Star break, but the Giants won all three series in the second half. The rivals always play well against each other, but this year San Francisco slightly took the edge over the Dodgers to win their first NL West Division title since 2012 and snap LA’s eight-season reign.
The NLDS, so far, has been a microcosm of the season series between the two California teams. Things got wild even before the Wild Card Game. The two juggernaut baseball clubs were often embroiled in many one-run battles during the regular season. I don’t think anyone was shocked that the NLDS would go back-and-forth when the two best teams in baseball are matched up.
Remember the check swing game? Kenley Jansen gave up a game-tying walk when first-base umpire Ed Hickox ruled a check-swing by the Giants’ Darin Ruf. Dave Roberts argued angrily and was promptly ejected for the second straight game. On replay, it looked as though Ruf went almost completely around on his swing. Of course the call went against the Dodgers and the game was tied rather than over. They ended up losing the game to ‘Frisco. A lot of those close games could have gone either way. The Giants continue to ride a wave of good baseball, luck and hair grease.
It’s never easy. The Dodgers have to somehow figure out Logan Webb. Webb looked like a virtual Cy Young down the stretch to close out the regular season for the Giants, shutting down the San Diego Padres in the final regular season game. He even hit a home run in the division-clinching game. Then the right-hander shut down the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS in dominant fashion.
Webb held the Dodgers to five hits with 10 strikeouts in 7 2/3 shutout innings. The Dodgers were swinging away at his changeup, an approach they hopefully have adjusted coming into Game 5. If he has his changeup and his slider working on Thursday, the Dodgers’ offense has its work cut out for them.
Dave Roberts decided to shake things up by opening with Corey Knebel instead of Urias for Game 5. This could either go very well and allow Urias to pitch deeper into the game and spur Gabe Kapler to burn through his left-handed hitters early. Or, it will backfire spectacularly. Let’s just pile on more to add to our anxiety.
Knebel has pitched well against lefties and righties (small sample size alert). Right-handers have a .563 OPS against Knebel during the regular season, while he held left-handed batters to a .477 OPS.
Urías will surely get the bulk of the innings tonight after Knebel opens. He’s also been dominant for the Dodgers in a starting role this season. The Dodgers have won all of the southpaw’s last 12 starts. Historically, Urías has struggled in the 1st inning (4.11 ERA with 32 earned runs in 70 IP). His 1st inning troubles haven’t been as bad this year, but perhaps bringing him in after Knebel will lessen the pressure a bit on the young lefty.
The Dodgers had to start red hot Gavin Lux who is 2-for-7 and has reached base four times this series. After a disappointing year, Lux roared back in the last month of the season with an OPS of .967 in his 17 final games of the regular season. He’ll have to maneuver the tricky outfield of Oracle Park, but with Lux’s athleticism I’m not too worried. They need his bat in the lineup, especially when Justin Turner (1-for-17) and AJ Pollock (.200 BA) are struggling at the plate.
Both Justin Turner and Trea Turner have been relatively quiet with the bat this series, and I have a feeling they’re due. JT is a fixture in Dodgers’ postseason baseball with a career slashline of .280/.375/.488/.863 in 77 postseason games.
The Dodgers’ heavy hitting catcher Will Smith and Mookie Betts have led the Dodgers’ offense this NLDS, while veteran Buster Posey and Kris Bryant have contributed the majority of the offense for the Giants (11-for-29 combined).
Speaking of great defense, can Brandon Crawford stop?
The Dodgers have had to avoid elimination twice already this postseason. After 23 matchups between the Dodgers and the Giants in the 2021 season, it all comes down to one last win to move on to the NLCS. They both have 109 wins including the postseason. 110 wins or go home.