We all knew this is how it was going to go down: Game 5, winner take all. Was there any other way? Yes, actually, the Giants could have won Game 4 and got on with it, but, again, it probably had to be this way.
What I can’t get over is 109 vs. 109. Both teams have now won 109 games. But the 110th is the biggest one. It’s nuts. On to my 3 thoughts from last night’s debacle in LA.
(1) There Is a Talent Gap Between the Giants and the Dodgers
Giants’ fans have been notoriously sensitive about this all year. But, the fact remains that the Dodgers are the more talented team than the Giants. This doesn’t mean LA is destined to win the series. Many times the ”less” talented team has gone on to win a series. Talent isn’t everything, especially at this level of the game where all these teams are very good, especially these two particular teams.
One way of measuring the gap (and credit to the TBS team for hinting at this the other night) is in hall of fame candidates. The Dodgers have two no-doubt, first ballot, hall of famers in Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw (granted, Kershaw is hurt and not performing in this series). The Dodgers have another player who will assuredly get in unless he gets catastrophically hurt or retires in Mookie Betts. They have a few other guys who could be on their way as well: Trea Turner, Walker Buehler, Cody Bellinger, Cory Seager. There is a lot of story to be written for those players, but that’s seven potential HOF candidates. This doesn’t even account for Kenley Jansen/Justin Turner/etc.
The Giants have one HOF candidate in Buster Posey (I think he’s a lock), and a fringy candidate (Brandon Crawford). But there is a very good chance that my grandkids are scanning wikipedia, or whatever this sort of thing will look like in 40 years, and going ”Good Lord, there were a lot of REALLY good players on that 2021 Dodgers team.”
Having said all of that, the big gap in talent is in the pitching, and in particular in the bullpen. The Giants pitching has been a great story all year, and the organization has done some incredible work to transform the bullpen into something that is more of an asset than a liability, but it does not come close to what the Dodgers can roll out of their pen. This is probably how, say, Trailblazer fans felt about playing the Durant/Curry Warriors. “We’re good, but come on man, there’s no way we match up!”
It was a minor miracle that the Giants didn’t lose last night 15-2, and I can’t remember a team feeling so overmatched the way the Giants bullpen is currently overmatched by the Dodgers lineup. And then, to make matter worse, the Dodgers counter with 4 guys who could easily be closers on 25 other teams. The gap is real, friends.
(2) The Circle of Trust
Having said all of that, all hope is not lost. Not at all. One bit of silver lining, before we talk about game 5, was Zack Littell who may have pitched his way back into the circle of trust. He was throwing 96 mph and his slider looked nasty (4 strikeouts in 2 innings. He did give up two hits, but both were kind of fluky). He was much more in command than he was in game 2 and you could see the Dodgers hitters finally put back on their heels for the first time all night.
That was a revelation, and much needed because the list of unusable pitchers only grew longer last night.
(3) How to Win Game 5
Just don’t let the Dodgers score…hahahaha! This is a joke, but then again, the two wins in this series have both been shutouts.
First, let me give the bad news. (A) Logan Webb has been a godsend and so good all year, especially in the second half. But, the Dodgers are relentless and masters of exploiting any weakness, and I fear just a bit of Webb overexposure. He and Posey will need to make adjustments to the adjustments, that might be the whole series right there. (B) The starting pitcher I feared the most coming into this series was/is Julio Urias. I know Scherzer is an all-time great. I know Walker Buehler might win the CY Young award this year. The guy I don’t want to see Urias. And that’s who we get to see. So, there’s that.
Now, the good news. Logan Webb is good! The Giants are good (hello 109 wins), and they are back in San Francisco and Oracle will be loud.
It goes without saying, but for the Giants to win, Webb needs to be great again. He cannot get knocked out this game early. He DOESN’T, though, need to be as good as was last time! If he can even give the Giants 15 outs (five innings) that could be enough (although more is better). Kapler has Doval, Rogers, McGee, and also, now, Littell, Alex Wood, and Kevin Gausman to cover the rest.
The bigger deal, in my opinion, will be getting to Urias early, getting a lead, and not having to play behind against the Dodgers bullpen. The best way to neutralize that massive talent gap is to make it not matter. When the Giants have shut out the Dodgers, they’ve won. But also, when the Giants scored first (and hit a home run) they won. A minor story line is that the Giants have scored: 4, 2, 1, and 2 runs in the four games. The bats need to show up too!
My proposed line up to get to Urias early (and ideally, often):
- Austin Slater RF
- Buster Posey C
- Kris Bryant CF
- Darin Ruf LF
- Brandon Crawford SS
- Evan Longoria 3B
- Wilmer Flores 1B
- Donovan Solano 2B
- Webb P
Then Kapler can go to Wade Jr, Yaz, etc for defense or lineup balance later in the game. No matter what, they can’t play this one from behind. Can’t wait to see what happens! GO GIANTS…