Dodgers-Giants: A Prized Fight That Never Stopped Giving

There are so many different ways that it could have ended, this glorious, emotional, dramatic, season-long slugfest between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, and virtually all of them would have seemed more appropriate.

Deep into Thursday night, Max Scherzer – pressed into action as the Dodgers’ closer – threw a pitch to Giants first baseman Wilmer Flores, with L.A. leading 2-1 in the ninth inning and two strikes on the board.

Flores checked his swing, but was called out anyway, and that’s all she wrote, after six-and-a-half months, 24 games, an incredible arm-wrestle of a divisional race and a compelling struggle of a National League Divisional Series.

It should have shaken out some other way, you felt. A walk-off dinger, perhaps, a spectacular play in the field, or at least a fiery fastball to close the game on a strikeout.

That would have been nice, sure. And yet, in truth, however this intriguing battle wound up there would have been a sense of regret at seeing it pass us by, for it has been baseball’s golden balm all year long.
 
It feels somewhat strange that the finish of this battle between a 107-win team and another that collected 106 isn’t the end of the season. But no, there are still two gripping championship series matchups to come, then the Fall Classic itself.

That one of those combatants, the Giants, are now on the outside looking in, scarcely seems fair, but that’s baseball and that’s just how rare this was, that the Dodgers could be the second-best team in baseball yet still land in the wildcard.

It’s been incredible, frankly, this ongoing war between two franchises that share so much history, dating back all the way to when they both resided on the other side of the country and also to the modern links, with Giants manager Gabe Kapler and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi both having cut their teeth in the blue-hued system.

Baseball’s regular season has rarely been as good as this and it was because of a pair of factors. Across the majors a crew of exhilarating youngsters, led by Shohei Ohtani, did unfeasible things, and did them with style and flourish. Then, you had the ongoing battle in the NL West, which was a prize fight that never stopped giving.
 
It was supposed to look like something else. The Giants were no one’s idea of a contender, predicted to finish low down the pecking order with a lineup that lacked superstar firepower. The head-to-head, wisdom suggested it would be between the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, who came with big spending, a ton of belief and the magic of Fernando Tatis Jr.

Not so. The Giants got going early and what started as a cute little spring tussle continued throughout, gaining in gravitas all the while. The Dodgers were so loaded that the total falloff in form of 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger and a late campaign injury to Clayton Kershaw were mere blips. The Giants saw sensational productivity from so many that it feels unfair to select a handful, like Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and LaMonte Wade Jr.

There was mutual respect between the teams for how could there not be? Who better to appreciate just how difficult it is to win so many games than the opponent that virtually did the same thing?

“It’s personal to them, so it’s personal to us.,” Scherzer said. “We want to win, we respect the heck out of the Giants and how good they are, but you got to go out there and believe that you can beat them.”
 
The Dodgers, ultimately, had too much firepower, with that roster stacked deep. Even so, the Giants pushed them to the brink and forced them to go for analytics rather than convention in Game 5, starting with relievers so that stud Julio Urias could enter in the third inning with the game still scoreless.

It was tense and tight, and how appropriate that it was. Baseball goes as it goes, but it would have been an anomaly if two teams that nipped at each other’s heels all year wrapped things up with a blowout.

Logan Webb was imperious for the Giants, Urias gave up just a single homer and finally, in a twist that was in some ways unexpected and in some ways anything but, Bellinger, the former rock of the lineup but coming off a horrid season, had the decisive RBI.
 
What the Giants and the Dodgers gave this year was a stunning treat that no one predicted. It was the best of what sports can offer, a tussle of the minds, a fierce clash of wills, a gripping narrative and a matchup decided by the narrowest of margins after the longest time.

Baseball’s tales unfold gradually and they’re sometimes a slow burn, but this one wasn’t. It was a fight that started out strong and just kept getting better, more addicting, even more watchable, all the way to the end.

So yes, when Flores held up, the first base ump shouldn’t have called it. The story should have had a little more to it. But the real sadness wasn’t that there was a blown call, but that it had to end at all.
 
Here’s what others have said …

Graham Couch, Lansing State Journal: “The Dodgers haven’t accomplished anything here. With double the payroll of the Giants, they won a narrow series victory after winning fewer regular season games.”

Ben Verlander, FOX Sports: “Kudos to this 2021 San Francisco Giants team. What an incredible season that nobody saw coming. It was remarkable. Unfortunate it had to end in the NLDS. Wish these two faced off in the NLCS.”

Pedro Moura, FOX Sports: “There are no maybes anymore. The Giants are going their separate ways for the offseason. The Dodgers are drinking into the night and flying to Georgia to fight for their fourth World Series bid in five years.”

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