The Dodgers and Giants need one more game to decide their 2021 supremacy, and if one thing is certain heading into Game 5 of the NLDS, it’s that both sides are intimately familiar with each other.
“They know us. We know them really well,” catcher Will Smith said Tuesday. “It’s just going to come down to who wants it a little more, and who is ready to go that day.”
Best is sometimes a relative term when comparing two teams, but in this case it’s true of the entire league. The Giants and Dodgers had the two best records in MLB this season. Counting the postseason, both teams are sitting on 109 wins heading into Thursday.
It will take 110 wins to get to the NLCS.
Thursday will be the 24th game between the Dodgers and Giants this season, which is even more remarkable considering their first game against one another in 2021 came in the eighth week of the season. Believe it or not, that’s not the most times these two rivals have faced off in a single year.
Dodgers-Giants 2021 head-to-head
In the days of the 154-game schedule and an eight-team National League (1904-1961), teams played the other seven teams 22 times each year. In both 1917 and 1933, before lights were installed in MLB stadiums, Brooklyn and New York played two extra-inning games that were called while tied, which counted as a game played but not in the standings, and was replayed from the beginning at a later date.
Those two years had 24 Dodgers-Giants matchups each, but it was 1951 that took the cake. After the 22 games between Brooklyn and New York during the 154-game schedule, they needed a best-of-three tiebreaker to decide the National League. That year, they played 25 games, with the home-team Giants winning the final contest to advance, famously so.
But even though this year isn’t a record between the two teams, this is as good as the Dodgers and Giants have been at the same time. And 24 games is a lot against the same opponent.
“Obviously, both teams know each other well. A lot of these guys have played against one another for a long time,” said Giants catcher Buster Posey. “This is why you play. Really it boils down to competing and execution, and it’s pretty much as simple as that.”
Thursday will be Posey’s 20th game against the Dodgers this season, hitting .299/.382/.552 against the longtime rival. If there’s anyone who would know about this rivalry, it’s Posey, who has played 180 games against the Dodgers in his Hall of Fame career.
Justin Turner has played in all 23 Dodgers-Giants games so far this season. Chris Taylor is at 22, as is Mike Yastrzemski. Smith has played in 20 games, and has homered twice in the series.
Cody Bellinger was an astonishing 2-for-48 (.042) against the Giants during the regular season, but he’s 3-for-11 (.273) during the NLDS, including a game-breaking two-run double in Game 2.
“Cody in the batter’s box, he’s forgotten what happened in the regular season,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s present, and I think that when I believe that, then I can trust it.”
Walker Buehler and Anthony DeScalafani each made their seventh start against the other team on Tuesday. Thursday will be Logan Webb’s fifth start against the Dodgers this year, and the sixth against the Giants for Julio Urías.
“We know what they do, they know what we do. We know who they want to have the baseball in Game 5, they know who we want, and the matchups that we’re trying to get,” Roberts said. “Now it’s about going out there and executing, and the best team wins.”