The National League Division Series between the Dodgers and Giants was every bit as good as promised, with five games of incredibly tense action between MLB’s two best teams. So of course the winner-take-all Game 5 wasn’t decided until the final inning.
Cody Bellinger, in an injury-plagued worst season of his career, has come alive in the postseason, culminating in an RBI single off Giants closer Camilo Doval in the ninth, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 win over the Giants on Thursday night at Oracle Park in San Francisco, punching a ticket for Los Angeles to the NLCS.
The winning rally started with Doval hitting Justin Turner with a pitch with one out. Gavin Lux, making his second straight start in centerfield, singled to right to put two on for Bellinger, who had two hits in 48 at-bats against the Giants during the regular season.
Bellinger in the NLDS had four hits in 15 at-bats, driving in key runs in road wins in Game 2 and Game 5.
As much attention was paid to the Dodgers’ strategy to start the game, using both Corey Knebel and Brusdar Graterol before Julio Urías, LA’s pitching was dominant in the series, allowing only 10 runs in five games. But it was how they closed Game 5 that was even more interesting.
After getting four innings out of Urías, Dave Roberts turned to Blake Treinen for the seventh and Kenley Jansen for the eighth, but instead of double switching to get either an extra frame, he left the ninth inning for Max Scherzer, who worked around a Justin Turner error to record the first save of his career.
Scherzer is the fourth Dodgers starting pitcher to record a save to close out a postseason series, joining Bob Welch (1981 NLCS), Clayton Kershaw (2016 NLDS), and Urías (2020 World Series).
The final out was a strikeout of Wilmer Flores, ruled out on a check swing that can only be described as a Ruf call.
Nah man, no swing pic.twitter.com/AKIDXE6Bdk— Internet #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) October 15, 2021
Darin Ruf recognizes the irony: “ it didn't look like he went but a checked swing early in the year helped us out too, It’s kind of funny how it comes down to those two events.”— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 15, 2021
San Francisco hit .182/.211/.302 during the NLDS, with 49 strikeouts and six walks.
The quintet of Walker Buehler, Scherzer, Urías, Jansen, and Treinen pitched 33 of the 44 innings in the series.
Logan Webb was nearly as dominant as he was in Game 1, though the right-hander mixed things up a bit on Thursday. He mixed in his two-seam fastball more often (34 of his 106 pitches, after just 20 sinkers last Friday), and kept the Dodgers off balance yet again, this time for seven innings, with seven strikeouts.
Webb induced four groundouts back to himself in Game 5, just like he did in Game 1.
Mookie Betts had the first three hits against Webb on Thursday, and after his sixth-inning single he stole second base. That set the stage for Corey Seager, who doubled to left for the game’s first run, and the Dodgers’ only run off Webb in 14⅔ innings this series.
Betts later added a fourth single, hitting .450 (9-for-20) in the NLDS.
San Francisco immediately answered in the bottom of the inning, with patience finally paying off for Darin Ruf. The Giants’ right-handed thumper, starting in left field in this one after playing first base Tuesday, hit rockets into deep flyouts in the first and third inning, with expected batting averages of .530 and .500. But on a sixth consecutive fastball from Urías in the sixth, Ruf didn’t give any fielder a chance to catch his latest drive, a 110.1-mph bomb hit 458 feet, well over the centerfield wall to tie things up.
That, in the 42nd inning of the NLDS, was the first time in the series a lead was relinquished.
In all, the NLDS was five games full of nervous energy, between a team that won 107 games in the regular season and another that won 106.
After April 28, the Dodgers spent 155 of the final 158 days of the regular season trailing the Giants. Los Angeles spent only one day, September 1, all along atop the NL West during that span. The Dodgers lost the first and third games of this NLDS, never leading in the series until the final out.
Now, they can take a breath and move on, as the Dodgers have finally, fully passed the Giants.
NLDS Game 5 particulars
Home run: Darin Ruf (1)
WP — Kenley Jansen (2-0): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts
LP — Camilo Doval (0-1): ⅔ IP, 2 hits, 1 run
Sv — Max Scherzer (1): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts
Last year’s National League Championship Series was so nice, they are playing it twice. The Dodgers will face the Braves for a second straight postseason, and the third October in the last four years. The NLCS starts on Saturday in Atlanta (5:07 p.m. PT, TBS) because as a wild card team the Dodgers cannot have home-field advantage before the World Series.