Runs were so hard to come by on Friday night at Oracle Park that the Dodgers nearly made two outs at third base on the same play to end the game. After that, nearly every box on the weird baseball bingo card was checked before this game was decided on a bad throw to first base.
The Giants outlasted the Dodgers 3-2 in 11 innings, ending LA’s two-day residency atop the division.
The final play was a ground ball by Buster Posey to second baseman Trea Turner, who threw high to catcher Will Smith, playing his first professional game at first base.
The @SFGiants win and reclaim sole possession of first place in the NL West! pic.twitter.com/wE6p0YiyMa— MLB (@MLB) September 4, 2021
“I got a good grip on the seams and let it go, and it pulled Will off the bag too much,” Turner said. “That play could have given us another chance, and I need to make that play.”
“I thought I kept my foot on the bag. The ump thought otherwise, then we went back and looked at the replay, and it was pretty close,” Smith said. “If they would have called him out, he would have been out on the replay.”
Smith moved from behind the plate to first base in the 10th inning after the Dodgers ran out of position players. He said he played some first base in fall scrimmages in college at Louisville.
“I’m still athletic enough to play anywhere on the field, and tonight they needed me to go to first base,” Smith said.
The Dodgers had Albert Pujols, the oldest player in MLB, as the free runner in the 10th, and he advanced from second base to third on a fly ball. Then he was replaced by pinch-runner Walker Buehler, who is slated to start on the mound Sunday. Buehler scored the go-ahead run on another fly ball, but the lead was short-lived.
Andrew Vasquez, acquired in a minor league trade from the Twins on Tuesday and added to the roster on Thursday, made his Dodgers debut in the 10th, trying to protect a one-run lead. It was his first major league game in 29 months.
The left-handed Vasquez — the Dodgers’ 39th pitcher of 2021 — got two ground balls, the first of which found its way through to center to score the free runner Posey from second base to tie the game. After Vasquez struck out Mike Yastrzemski, he was pulled in favor of right-handed Evan Phillips, the Dodgers’ 11th pitcher of the night in an impromptu bullpen game.
Phillips escaped the 10th inning without further damage, and nearly kept the Giants scoreless in the 11th, as a clean throw from Turner would have ended the inning. But it wasn’t to be, and both teams might need to scramble for the remainder of the series.
“Those two were really bright spots,” manager Dave Roberts said of Vasquez and Phillips. “For the game to end like it did, I feel bad for Evan. He did everything he could to help us win a ballgame.”
Friday’s game, and really this entire weekend, is about both teams trying to make the most out of what they have.
Both teams used a pinch hitter in the third inning. The Dodgers did it because they deployed a bullpen game, hastened by soreness in David Price’s left elbow. San Francisco, with both Johnny Cueto and Alex Wood sidelined, will use bullpen games of their own on Saturday and Sunday, after using five relievers on Friday.
The Giants’ pinch-hitter in the third inning was Austin Slater, but he wasn’t batting in place of a pitcher. Slater, a right-handed batter, replaced the left-handed Lamont Wade, Jr., San Francisco’s cleanup hitter on Friday. The move paid off in spades when Dodgers southpaw Alex Vesia left an 0-2 fastball up that Slater lined a single to left field to score the first run of the game.
For a long while, it looked like that single run might hold up, thanks to a struggling Dodgers offense.
Since Mookie Betts was activated off the injured list on August 26, the Dodgers have had their full complement of regulars available for the first time. But so far, it hasn’t mattered much, with the Dodgers scoring only 3.13 runs per game, topping out at five runs twice.
“Offensively we just really didn’t threaten,” Roberts said.
They managed only two hits in six innings against Giants starter Anthony DeSclafani, who kept LA off the scoreboard in by far his best start against the Dodgers this season. The right-hander allowed 22 runs in 21 innings in his first five starts against them in 2021, but struck out five and worked around three walks to get through six scoreless frames.
After only three hits in eight innings, the Dodgers managed three hits off old friend Jake McGee to tie the game in the ninth. But not before a potential heart-stopping sequence. Corey Seager doubled with one out to advance Justin Turner to third base. A hard Smith grounder to second started a rundown between third and home.
Turner retreated to third base, where Seager already advanced. Posey tagged both Dodgers while they were on the base, and Seager was called out. But then both Seager and Turner walked off the base, thinking they were out.
For a brief moment, it seemed Posey might have been able to tag Turner to end the game, but Turner made it safely back to the bag.
Baseball! pic.twitter.com/4yxudupwze— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 4, 2021
With the game still going, Chris Taylor blooped a ball into short centerfield to tie the game, but they were unable to tack on another run until the 10th-inning exploits of Pujols and Buehler on the bases.
“All game it just seemed like all game we were playing from behind, and playing on our heels all night,” Roberts said.
Corey Knebel was the Dodgers’ opener and, pitching on three days rest, threw two scoreless innings to tie a career high. His eight batters faced was a season high as was 32 pitches, his most in a game since August 5, 2018.
Phil Bickford was the next man up, but wasn’t nearly as efficient, walking the pitcher DeSclafani and Darin Ruf to open the third inning. It’s just the third game with two unintentional walks this season for Bickford, who entered Friday with a 5.1-percent unintentional walk rate with the Dodgers.
The Dodgers got pretty much what they wanted from the staff in an unenviable circumstance, using 11 pitchers to hold the Giants to three runs in 11 innings, only one earned. You’d take that every single time.
Had the game continued, Phillips would have pitched the 12th, and had it continued, Roberts said Price would have pitched the 13th, a long way from being a potential injured list candidate before the game.
“We’re going to see how David feels. He felt better today, and played catch in right field,” Roberts said. “He’ll be active tomorrow.”
Roberts said the Dodgers would likely stay the course and not make any roster moves Saturday despite using 11 pitchers on Friday. The club was off Thursday, and every reliever except for Knebel is expected to be active for the middle game of the series.
Wake me up when September 3 ends
Dodgers broadcasters still aren’t traveling to road games, but rather than call Friday night’s game from Dodger Stadium like they’ve done all year, Joe Davis and Orel Hershiser set up shop at the SportsNet LA studios, because of a Green Day concert at Dodger Stadium.
Still doing road games from Dodger Stadium. Except tonight there's a Green Day concert at Dodger Stadium. So we're doing Dodgers/Giants from a trailer pod outside the studios in El Segundo.— Joe Davis (@Joe_Davis) September 4, 2021
Home runs: none
WP — Jarlin Garcia (6-3): 1 IP, 1 hit, 2 strikeouts
LP — Evan Phillips (1-1): 1 IP, 1 unearned run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
Julio Urías starts for the Dodgers on Saturday, with a slightly earlier start than the series opener (6:05 p.m.; SportsNet LA, MLB Network). The Giants are going with a bullpen game over the final two days of the series.