It's being called the biggest game in the history of the 120-year-old rivalry between the Giants and the Dodgers, and it will be happening in San Francisco, under the lights at Oracle Park, in the hopefully waning days of a pandemic on Thursday night.
This year's stellar Giants team shut out the Los Angeles Bums on Monday 1-0, but thanks to Walker Buehler and Mookie Betts, the teams are now two for two after Tuesday night's heartbreaker in L.A., and it's sudden death at Game 5 on Thursday.
And because it's a winner-take-all game, with the winning team heading for the National League Championship against the Atlanta Braves, this is a setup that hearkens back to the storied games of 1951 and 1962 seasons — both of which the Giants won to head to the World Series.
Back in those days, there weren't playoffs, per se — but in those two seasons, the Giants and the Dodgers met, in 1951 at the Polo Grounds in New York, and in 1962 at Dodgers Stadium, in best-of-three tiebreaker series that were essentially like playoff games, but technically in the regular season. The earlier game included the legendary "Shot Heard 'Round the World," the three-run homer by Bobby Thomson in the ninth inning. And this Game 5 could down in baseball lore like those have. (Any fiction fans out there may recall that the 1951 game was the setting for the opening of Don DeLillo's epic Underworld.)
It's a fitting end for the season for this rivalry, given the razor-thin, one-game margin by which the Giants led the National League West — winning a record 107 games for the season, a franchise record. The Dodgers won 106 games, the second-best record in the league, tying their franchise record set two years ago, in 2019 — and the Giants won the season series 10-9.
"It's only right," ESPN says, that this dramatic Game 5 should occur.
"This is what baseball wants," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday, per the Mercury News. "I think, as I understand, all the series are done and so we’re going to be the only show in town. So if you have a pulse or you’re a sports fan, you better be watching Dodgers-Giants."
As the Chronicle's Ann Killion writes, this is "the most epic game in the 132-year history between the two teams," and "You might want to clear your calendars."
San Francisco's bars and restaurants with televisions, and the living rooms of even the most casual of baseball fans, will be tuned in on Thursday to see the drama play out in true October fashion — the personalities and interpersonal rivalries on display with each at-bat.
The Giants will start Logan Webb on Thursday, the young ace who helped take Game 1 of this series for the team. And manager Gabe Kapler said Tuesday of the bullpen setup, "Yeah, that’s nice. Webb with a full slate. Gausman with a full slate. Alex Wood at some point in the game isn’t completely out of the question. We’ve got all our relievers up and ready to pitch."
There's also a home-team advantage, and the roar of fans at Oracle Park to maybe break the Dodgers of their streak of deciding-game wins.
For fans of Buster Posey, this could, potentially, be a last chance to see him play at Oracle Park before his possible
Thursday's game at Oracle was not yet a sellout as of Wednesday morning, and the Giants still had some $300 to $350 tickets for sale. On the secondary market, there were some $200 seats for sale, and Dugout Club seats going for $5,000.
As Roberts also said last night, of this long rivalry and the two teams' many meetings this season, "Because of the familiarity, we think alike. We know each other's playbook, so now it’s just old school: we're going to run the ball to the right and you're going to have to stop us. Like Vince Lombardi. We know what we do, they know what we do, we know who they want to have the baseball in Game 5, they know who we want and the matchups that we're trying to get. Now it's about going out there and executing. And the best team wins."
Top image: Mookie Betts #50 of the Los Angeles Dodgers watches his RBI sacrifice fly out against the San Francisco Giants during the fifth inning in game 4 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)