SAN FRANCISCO — Almost always positive and upbeat, Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts was not after Game 1 of this National League division series. While everyone else raved about San Francisco starter Logan Webb’s dominance, Roberts chafed. He wasn’t bothered so much by the results as he was by what he viewed as his hitters’ undisciplined approach.
“To be quite honest, we didn’t make adjustments,” Roberts complained.
He added: “We just chased a lot more than we should have. If you don’t make adjustments, they’re going to keep going to the well.”
It is easier said than done, of course, when facing top-shelf pitching like that of the Giants. But in the second inning of Game 2, things began to turn for the Dodgers. By the time they poured it on in the late-innings of a series-evening 9-2 triumph, they had plenty of reason to feel good about going home for Game 3 with Max Scherzer on the mound.
“It’s interesting how the narrative changes from game to game,” a far more chipper Roberts said late Saturday night, before continuing: “It’s a three-game series, we have home-field advantage and we’ve got Max on the mound. So I like where we’re at.”
The Dodgers’ game plan against Giants ace Kevin Gausman was deceptively simple: Don’t chase pitches outside of the strike zone and don’t bite on the right-hander’s split-finger fastball if it is diving low toward the dirt. Gausman threw the splitter 35.4 percent of the time this summer, second only to his four-seam fastball, which he threw 52.7 percent of the time.
The Dodgers got started in the second inning with help from a surprising place in the lineup. After Chris Taylor doubled, the struggling Cody Bellinger followed by chasing one of Gausman’s splitters down low for strike three. Gausman fell behind with a 2-0 count on A.J. Pollock, the Dodgers’ eighth-place hitter, and with two out and Taylor in scoring range, Giants Manager Gabe Kapler ordered an intentional walk, favoring a Gausman matchup against pitcher Julio Urias.
But on a 1-1 count, Gausman, who had held rivals to a .154 batting average with runners in scoring position this season, left a split-finger fastball up in the zone and Urias, a .190 career hitter, tagged it for an R.B.I. single to right field.
“Maybe this is a bad analogy, but it’s kind of like Steph Curry seeing one go in,” Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts said of that first Dodgers run. “We just needed to see one cross the plate.”
The Dodgers, who had been shut out in Game 1, scored four more runs in Saturday’s sixth inning, ambushing reliever Dominic Leone on consecutive pitches with two-run doubles from Bellinger and Pollock.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers brushed aside the hopes of a Giants comeback with two sensational defensive plays: Trea Turner dove to smother a Wilmer Flores ground ball behind second base and flipped it to Corey Seager to force Buster Posey at the bag. A batter later, Brandon Crawford singled to right and Flores made the bad decision of attempting to go first-to-third, only to get erased by Betts’s laser throw from deep right field.
The Giants and Dodgers had not played in a postseason game since 1889 — a year before the Dodgers joined the National League — and both teams seem to be looking to make up for lost time in terms of heroics.
“It kind of reminds me of the Red Sox and Yankees,” said Betts, the former Boston outfielder. “It’s kind of similar to that, but only in the National League. And it’s a great rivalry to be a part of and I’m just thankful to be a part of it.”
As for Roberts’s statement about the narrative changing from game to game, Pollock thinks that is fairly simple math.
“When you put up nine runs, obviously everyone is going to feel your approach was good,” he said. “And when you put up zero, nobody’s going to like it.”