LOS ANGELES — Six months of regular-season chasing wasn’t enough. The Los Angeles Dodgers are still trying to run down the San Francisco Giants in October. And now, after 23 games this season between these ancient and bitter rivals, last call arrives with Game 5 on Thursday night.
In Tuesday’s Game 4, with Walker Buehler working on short rest for the first time in his career, the Dodgers quickly made it clear that their season would not end that night. In front of 52,935 roaring — and anxious — fans at Dodger Stadium they demolished the Giants, 7-2.
Including the regular season and postseason, the Giants and Dodgers now each own 109 victories in 2021. So far, San Francisco holds a 12-11 edge over Los Angeles. But all it will take is one more win for either team to advance to the National League Championship Series against Atlanta.
“This is what baseball wants,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said after a grueling 3 hour 38 minute game in which the teams combined to use 14 pitchers and 25 position players. “All the other series are done. We’re going to be the only show in town.
“If you have a pulse or are a sports fan, you better be watching the Dodgers and Giants. It’s going to be a great one.”
Roberts wasted no time, naming left-hander Julio Urias (20-3, 2.96 E.R.A.) as the Dodgers’ Game 5 starter before Game 4 had even started. Urias was the starting pitcher in Game 2 in San Francisco, holding the Giants to one run over five innings in a Dodgers win. Roberts said that as of now Max Scherzer, who started Game 3 on Monday, very likely will not be available in relief for Game 5 but noted coyly “I’ve been known to change my mind.”
Giants Manager Gabe Kapler, who burned through all but one of his available relievers in Game 4, confirmed that rookie Logan Webb, who was brilliant in Game 1, would start Game 5. Kapler said starter Kevin Gausman would be available to back up Webb and “I don’t think using Alex Wood at some point would be out of the question.”
With a strong pitching matchup in a winner-take-all game, this division series is getting the finish it deserves.
The Giants owned baseball’s best record for 125 total days this season and were the first team to 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100 wins. They may get bounced after one playoff series.
The Dodgers had the best run differential in the majors (+269), far outdistancing the next-best team — the Giants, at +210 — yet they have been shut out twice in four games by San Francisco and are also on the brink of elimination.
“I feel like our team and the Dodgers team have both been playing meaningful games for awhile now,” Giants catcher Buster Posey said. “Obviously, this one coming up on Thursday is the most meaningful to this point and it should be fun.”
The Dodgers are becoming accustomed to this backs-to-the-wall thing. They trailed Atlanta three-games-to-one in last October’s N.L.C.S. before storming back, and Buehler stood tall in a career milestone to save them from extinction on Tuesday. Roberts thought he was stronger Tuesday than in his Game 1 start, and the velocity on his fastball early in Game 4 was 96.3 miles an hour, up from his season average 95.3.
“I felt that if things didn’t go our way yesterday I would feel really weird not pitching a game we could lose a series,” Buehler said by way of explaining why he volunteered for short-rest duty.
Buehler made sure things went the Dodgers’ way on Tuesday to set up one of the most important games in this 133-season rivalry. And as often as the teams have played this year, there are no secrets.
“We know each other’s playbook,” Roberts said. “So now we just go to old-school, we’re going to run the ball to the right and you’re going to have to stop us. It’s Vince Lombardi. We’re going to play. We know what we do, they know what we do.”