3 Thoughts on NLDS Game 5

109 wins. 109 wins and a game that came down to the final out, the final at bat, there was no other for this season to go. The ending was certainly unfortunate (more on that in moment), but it doesn’t change the fact that this was a special season and a special team. And this was an all-time great, epic series. We’ll do some bigger picture thoughts later on, but for now, a couple things about game 5.

(1) The Brutal Ending

I do not think the Giants lost because of a bad call by the umpire on that check swing by Wilmer Flores. And yes, it was clearly a check swing. But, Flores was 0-17 against Scherzer in his career. There’s a tiny chance he hits a walk off home run if given another pitch. There a slightly better chance he might prolong the inning. But the Giants were down to their final strike and had a ways to go to even get the game to extra innings, so let’s not go crazy here.

I felt like the game was lost in the first two innings (more on this later). 

That being said, the umpiring was a significant subplot all series. (And the Giants were concerned heading into the series). I think it was bad, but it was bad for both teams. It’s just a huge shame that MLB would assign some of its worst umpires to such a massive series. For the players to so dramatically outshine the umpires was not a good look, and that’s putting it politely.

(2) The Bullpen

The real reason the Giants lost this series is due to the bullpen. I do not necessarily mean this in a critical sense. I don’t think Kapler mismanaged things, I don’t blame any of the players per se, the Dodgers bullpen is just way better than Giants, and a five game series is all about exposing any particular weaknesses a team has.

Turns out the Dodgers lineup is particularly susceptible to being shut down by pitchers who can keep the ball on the ground (Webb, obviously, but Gausman and Wood also threw 10+ quality innings, giving up just 2 runs). 

The Giants simply did not have enough high end talent in the bullpen.

Camillo Doval is a revelation and will be a good player for a while in this league, but for all his nasty stuff, he’s had control issues (this is why he went to and from Sacaramento 4 times over the course of the season). He couldn’t control his fastball last night, hit Justin Turner (a particularly egregious mistake since Turner did nothing with the bat the entire series), which forced him into throwing too many sliders and that approach got exposed.

This is what the Dodgers do to you, which leads to thought #3, but only after one more sub thought. One way to take pressure off the bullpen…score more runs. The Giants scored 4 runs and hit three home runs in game 1. The rest of the series they scored 6 runs and hit two home runs. If they could have broken out in any of these games it could have changed everything. 

Which is why I felt like the Giants really lost this game earlier in the early innings. Darin Ruf nearly homered in the first. Posey nearly homered in the first as well and settled for a double. But Brandon Crawford could not make the opener Knebel pay, and stranded Posey at second. That was a big moment. 

Right away in the second inning Bryant got a hit. Flores followed with another single soon after and Evan Longoria had a chance to be a hero with one out. He could not take advantage. That was a big moment.

In the fourth inning, Crawford led off with a hit. Kris Bryant was then thrown 5 balls, but two of them were called strikes. If there is an umpiring moment to be bitter about it’s probably this one. A walk there would put the Giants in a 1st and 2nd situation with NO outs, a situation I don’t know that they ever had, once, in the entire series! 

1st and 2nd, no out, situations produce 1-1.4 runs per inning (depending on which modeling system you use). In other words, those bad strike zone calls probably cost the Giants a run, if not more. (2 outs with 1 runner on only produced 0.19 runs, so you can see why this is more costly than the check swing call).

Umpiring aside, the Giants lack of runs was a huge bummer and put way too much pressure on an already outmatched bullpen.

(3) Mookie Betts is Great

This final thought is really an opportunity to complain about how lame the Red Sox and Nations are. Yes, the Dodgers are supremely talented. Yes, they draft and develop and scout talent as well as anyone. They also acquired Betts, Scherzer, and Trea Turner in trades that DID NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN. 

Now, the Red Sox are still alive and might play the Dodgers in the World Series. Some of the pieces they got in the trade have helped them, and the financial flexibility has helped too, but how do you trade Mookie Betts (Imagine the Giants trading Buster Posey after the 2012 MVP/Championship season). It is incredibly annoying that three guys that would go in the first round of most Fantasy Baseball drafts ended up on the 2021 Dodgers.

If I’m bitter about anything, it’s that haha! Partially because I love Mookie Betts and I hate that I can never root for him again because he’s on the dang Dodgers!

That’s it for now. My general perspective is that this was an amazing series and will go down as an all time great. We should have seen these teams in the NLCS not DS, but baseball has weird rules, so instead enjoy the 88 win Atlanta Braves America!

I’ll be back soon with some thoughts on the season as a whole, and the offseason that lies ahead, which is infinitely interesting! 

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