SAN FRANCISCO – Buster Posey said, “That’s why you play.”
Dave Roberts said, “This is what baseball wants.”
Already 23 chapters have been written for one of the most compelling versions of one of the greatest competitions in the sport, and the Giants and Dodgers will complete their 2021 history finale on Thursday at Oracle Park.
The 24th head-to-head match between clubs this season is the first of its kind: a winner-take-all playoff game with a spot in the National League championship series at stake.
As the pair of clubs that have won 109 games since opening prepare to play in San Francisco, we looked at five critical keys to the game for the Giants as they expect to end the NLDS just like they did in the regular season: One game ahead of the Dodgers.
1. Another Webb gem
In two of the most important games of his life, Webb has performed excellently. After helping the Giants win the NL West with an outstanding performance against the Padres, Webb made a sensational attempt in the first game of the NLDS when he tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dodgers.
The Giants’ squad has been struggling this season and many of their feed have struggled, so it’s hard to imagine San Francisco beating Los Angeles in an effective match. Webb is one of the best pitchers in the Majors, so creating weak contact and creating swings and misses for at least five innings will be critical to giving the Giants a chance to win.
2. Winning with a long ball.
Forget about sacrificial heads, hitting and running and combining three or four punches together in one inning. If the giants are going to beat Urias, their best chance is to knock the ball out of the park.
The Giants have set a new franchise record with 241 home runs this season with 17 different players hitting at least five, but Urias is one of the best in the league in suppressing home runs since the 0.92 he allowed in nine innings in this year, ranked 14th among qualified starters.
The left-hander has given up multiple home runs in just four games this year, and in six starts against the Giants this season, including Game 2 of the NLDS, Urias has allowed only three home runs combined. Austin Slater, Donovan Solano and Mike Jastrzemski are three players who have taken Urias deep this year, but given the preferences of the Giants squad, it is unlikely that Jastrzemski will be in Wednesday’s starting lineup.
At the heart of the Giants’ offensive identity is a home run, and that won’t change on Thursday.
3. There are no free basic runners.
The Dodgers are an exceptional attacking team with enough firepower to defeat even the best pitchers in the league. This is not a group that needs a lot of help.
Throughout the streak, the Giants’ pitchers, and especially the team’s pitchers, helped attack the Dodgers by throwing too many walks against the squad that had the lowest pursuit percentage of the Majors. Webb was successful in the first game, hitting the strike zone and causing wobble in the competition areas that were close to that zone, and he expects to follow the same formula on Thursday.
Aside from avoiding walking, the Giants cannot afford to make the mistakes or mental mistakes that allow Dodgers players to get to base or take up an additional base. From Mookie Betts to Treya Turner and Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers have excellent command speed and can take advantage of even the smallest missteps.
4. Deal with the pressure of the eighth and ninth innings.
Despite the fact that only one of the four games played by the teams in this series had a feed in a save situation, it seemed that every full-time match in the regular season was reduced to zero. Six of the 19 games the Giants & Dodgers played prior to the playoffs were decided in one go, with Tyler Rogers and Kenley Jansen battling at some of the most critical moments.
If Thursday’s play is close and low-scoring, expect Rogers and 24-year-old rookie Camilo Doval to find themselves in some of the most tense situations of their careers, while Jansen and Blake Trainen will be the Dodgers’ preferred options. Doval never looks embarrassed, but a lot can change when the season is at stake.
Jansen has far more experience in moments like this, but the Giants hitters have done better against him in 2021 than in any other year of his career. Against a pitcher known to bite off the edges of the punching zone, maintaining excellent cymbal discipline may be the key to lengthening the season.
5. Someone has to play the game of their life.
Perhaps this is Webb, the aspiring ace who might be one of the best young players in the starting program.
Perhaps they are battle-tested veterans such as Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, who are already responsible for some of the Giants’ most important playoff moments.
He may be an unlikely bench player to play an important role, but no matter who comes up and when, the Giants will likely need someone to play their game of life to defeat the Dodgers. That doesn’t mean Alex Dickerson can or will surpass his three-homer game against the Rockies last September, but it does mean that if Dickerson hits the pitcher in the seventh inning, he may have to hit the most important home run. his career to lead the giants to victory.
In October, heroes are created, but that doesn’t mean that the best player on the team should shift the rest of the club onto their backs. Just ask Cody Ross, Edgar Renteria and Travis Ishikawa, who have taken their place in giant history, even though no one expected it.