The San Francisco Giants faced off against the Dodgers Monday in a near flawless night for both teams' defense, and one home run by Evan Longoria was all it took to hold off the Dodgers and head for a potentially decisive Game 4 on Tuesday in L.A.
It was a windy night in L.A. just like it was in the Bay Area, and a few of the Giants noted that it felt a lot like San Francisco at Dodgers Stadium, as the temperatures dipped to the low 50s. That may have been a slight advantage for the Giants — and a ninth-inning hit to center field by Dodgers pinch-hitter Gavin Lux likely would have gone out of the park on a less windy night, but instead it was stopped short and caught by Steven Duggar for the game-losing out, just as Duggar had caught a similar hit by Chris Taylor earlier in the inning.
Giants Manager Gabe Kapler, a Southern California native, called the whole night "super strange," as the New York Times notes.
But strange weather or not, the rival teams head into Game 4 tonight with the Dodgers one away from elimination.
The Dodgers' recently trade-acquired star pitcher Max Scherzer did his job well for seven innings, only allowing three hits by the Giants including Longoria's wind-defying homer.
Giants starter Alex Wood lasted nearly five full innings, fending off base hits by the Bums.
Reliever Tyler Rogers sure does have a "funky" pitching style, as the announcers like to note. Did they recruit him from the cricket leagues?
And shortstop Brandon Crawford made an impressive, gravity-defying catch to stop a base hit by Mookie Betts in the seventh.
As Wood said after the game, per MLB.com, "Just truly special performances across the board. And on a weird night. In five years of playing here, I've never seen the weather and the wind like it was tonight. It was just really odd. It felt like we were kind of playing in San Francisco a little bit, more so than L.A. But just a great team win, it really was."
But now as the Bums face a decisive night in their home stadium, it's a choice between pitcher Walker Buehler, who started in Game 1 — which the Dodgers lost 4-1 — or Tony Gonsolin, giving Buehler a little more rest.
Many local pundits noted Monday that, historically, the Giants have thrived in the postseason under just this kind of pressure — though this is the team's first playoff appearance since 2016, and the Giants' storied even-year World Series run ended in 2014. This has, by any measure, been a stellar comeback year for the team, boasting the best record in the Major Leagues and the franchise record for wins in a season with 107 — besting a record of 105 set in 1904 when the team was still in New York.
Writing for the Bold Italic over the weekend, longtime Giants fan Steve Kettmann says "something about this year’s Giants team feels fresh and fun and even special." And he notes that in his first full season as manager, Kapler and his coaching staff have spent a lot of time "building a deep rapport and deep two-way communication with players," and it has clearly paid off. He adds, after years in which analytics have ruled baseball and many pundits deride its slowness, that "San Francisco is once again at the forefront of reminding people what baseball can mean to a community: it can be fun, and it can bring people together."
Look for sports bars all over SF to be packed tonight, as this year's Giants team tries to make history again, and head for their first pennant race in seven seasons. That could be against the Atlanta Braves, if they take today's Game 4 against the Milwaukee Brewers (Atlanta is leading 2-1 in their series). Or, if the Brewers hold off the Braves, it could be Milwaukee heading to San Francisco, or vice versa, on Saturday for the first game of the National League Championship.
But we need to get through tonight.
Top image: Evan Longoria #10 of the San Francisco Giants watches his solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fifth inning in game 3 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)