LOS ANGELES – The first playoff matchup of the modern era between the Giants and Dodgers was set to come down to a winner-take-all game.
The 107-win Giants club won the National League West by the narrowest margin over the 106-win Dodgers club in large part because it won the 10-to-9-season series between the clubs, so their NLDS showdown would certainly come down to that. to a game.
“This is what baseball wants,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday. “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’re better off watching the Dodgers-Giants ”
Thursday’s matchup at Oracle Park would be billed as the biggest in the rivalry’s history, but depending on your point of view, it’s not necessarily the case.
In 1951 and 1962, the Giants and Dodgers met in a best-of-three tiebreaker series at the end of the regular season to determine which club would represent the National League in the World Series. Those series were officially entered as regular season games, but they came with the same type of pressure and intensity that San Francisco and Los Angeles have brought to this year’s post-season matchups.
And if history repeats itself, Giants fans will leave Oracle Park late Thursday with the memory of a lifetime.
In 1951, the New York Giants took a 1–0 lead in a tiebreaker with a 3–1 win over Ralph Branca and the Brooklyn Dodgers, before Jackie Robinson’s club returned with an impressive 10–0 victory in Game 2. .
The winner-take-all game was played at 3 polo grounds and the way it ended lives on in baseball lore 70 years later. With the Giants trailing 4–1 at the bottom of the ninth inning, Whitey Lockman hit an RBI double from Dodgers starter Don Newcomb before Brooklyn called reliever Ralph Branca to finish the job against third baseman Bobby Thomson. .
The rest are known as “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”.
Thomson’s three-run walk-off home run sent the Polo Grounds into a frenzy as his blast propelled the Giants to the 1951 World Series that eventually ended with a loss to the New York Yankees. Homer remains one of the most iconic in major league history, but it is not the only famous ninth inning in a rivalry’s winner-take-all game.
After the clubs moved west to California in 1958, a pair of 101-winning teams met again at the end of the regular season in a best-of-three tiebreaker that unfolded in an incredibly similar fashion. The Giants won Game 1 again, but this time they were the team with a resounding victory, while the Dodgers took Game 2 to a nail-biter.
The Dodgers entered Los Angeles with a 4–2 lead in the ninth inning of Game 3, but reliever Ed Roebuck dropped an RBI single to Willie Mays before Orlando Cepeda scored a game against the Dodgers’ next reliever, Stan Williams. -Tie sacrifice hit the fly. .
With the game tied at 4-4, catcher Ed Bailey deliberately went for a base load before Jim Davenport pulled off a base loaded walk to give San Francisco the lead. An error resulted in another run, and Giants reliever Billy Pearce eventually finished a 1–2–3 ninth inning with a dramatic, pennant-cleaning 6–4 victory.
It’s been nearly 60 years since the Giants and Dodgers met in matchups with comparable stakes, but the time has come and the stage is set for Oracle Park on Thursday evening.
If the Dodgers entered the game at the bottom of the ninth inning close to Kenley Jensen, it would not mean the Giants’ dream season would be over. As the franchise has proven against Jensen twice in the past and twice this season, a return to the ninth inning is entirely possible.
Considering how the 2021 season has unfolded, who’s to say it can’t happen again?