The ending the Dodgers and Giants provided Thursday night in San Francisco, after 3 hours and 26 minutes of stress and tension and the best that baseball can offer, might be proof that there is indeed karma. Or at least Someone Up There has one heck of a sense of drama.
Remember July 22? That was the night first base umpire Ed Hickox ruled that the Giants’ Darin Ruf did not go around on a check swing that would have been strike three. That led to Manager Dave Roberts’ ejection and kept alive a rally that turned a 3-2 lead into a 5-3 loss, gave Kenley Jansen his second blown save in a row and pushed the Dodgers three games behind the Giants in the NL West standings. You can make the case that if it weren’t for that game, and the ultimate one-game margin between the clubs, Thursday night’s decider of the NL Division Series would have been in The Ravine instead of at Oracle Park.
Here come the #Giants fans whining about Flores’ check swing to end the game, conveniently ignoring Darin Ruf’s full count swing that walked in a run vs #LADodgers earlier in the season. pic.twitter.com/JdUxE03tbF
— Aaron (@aarondevandry) October 15, 2021
Fast forward, then, to the bottom of the ninth Thursday, two outs, a man on first and the Dodgers trying to hold on to a 2-1 lead and finish off the series. Wilmer Flores tried to hold up on Max Scherzer’s 2-and-2 slider and … well, maybe he held up and maybe he didn’t. The check swing is maybe the toughest call in baseball to get right, although to some (many?) umps just finding the strike zone is particularly challenging.
But first base umpire Gabe Morales ruled it a swing, and that was that.
Wilmer Flores and the check swing heard ’round the world. pic.twitter.com/nZWVre7U1v
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) October 15, 2021
Ruf, who had tied Thursday’s game with a monstrous 452-foot home run to center field in the sixth inning, acknowledged the juxtaposition afterward.
Darin Ruf recognizes the irony: “ it didn’t look like he went but a checked swing early in the year helped us out too, It’s kind of funny how it comes down to those two events.”
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 15, 2021
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) October 15, 2021
But it was fitting that this series, and an entire season that has been so competitive between these ancient rivals, would be decided by the smallest of margins and the most difficult of calls.
Maybe it was only right that after the conversation and consternation in the afternoon about the Dodgers’ decision to use Corey Knebel as an opener en route to Julio Urías, the chain from Knebel to Brusdar Graterol to Urías, Blake Treinen, Kenley Jansen and Scherzer ran as smoothly as it did. And maybe it was coincidence, or maybe not, that Scherzer nailed down an elimination game on two days of rest, 56 years to the day after Sandy Koufax pitched a 2-0 shutout of the Minnesota Twins on two days of rest to win the 1965 World Series.
It’s baseball. What can we say?
This was 3 hours and 26 minutes of tension and nervous energy and waiting to see who would be responsible for the big hit or the big pitch or the big play – or big miscue – that would spoil an entire season’s work for one of these ancient rivals.
“I mean, the Giants are an incredible team,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told media members after it was over. “Talented one through 26, Kap (Gabe Kapler) deploys them really well. So we knew it was going to be a really tough series. I don’t think we appreciated the full extent of it until living it. But it was an incredible series. Obviously, we feel really good about being on the side of it that we were. But we appreciate how razor-thin the margins were.”
Beyond the rivalry, and the history, and the enmity between Dodgers fans and Giants fans (and the trolling was underway not long after the final pitch), there seemed to be mutual respect among the competitors. Maybe it’s because these teams are so similar, with former Dodger GM Farhan Zaidi and former Dodger farm director Kapler using many of the same principles to assemble this Giants roster and get it into fighting shape a year or two earlier than those on the outside had anticipated. That team is good, and it’s likely going to be a threat for years to come.
And after both teams had won 109 games in 2021, counting the postseason, and after the Giants had won 12 and the Dodgers 11 head-to-head, shouldn’t a taut pitchers’ duel have been the only way it could end?
For the record, dating to the first meeting between NL champion New York and American Association champion Brooklyn in the 1889 “World’s Series” – you know, the one nobody remembered when they kept calling this the “first ever” postseason meeting of the franchises – the Giants have won 1,277 meetings between the teams and the Dodgers (aka Bridegrooms, Grooms, Superbas and Robins) have won 1,249, according to Baseball-Reference.com. It must be noted that Brooklyn was 121 games under .500 against New York from 1903 through 1938, a period when the Brooklyn club seldom contended and was often lousy. Since the teams came to the West Coast in 1958, the Dodgers have a 575-550 edge following Thursday’s victory.
Yes, there have been memorable moments and winner-take-all games that catapulted one of these teams into the World Series. But no less an authority than Vin Scully, who witnessed most of those battles over the years, tweeted Thursday afternoon that this might be the biggest one in the teams’ shared history.
To my knowledge, tonight’s game between the @Dodgers and @SFGiants is the most important game in the history of their rivalry. With nearly identical records, and so much at stake, I believe this to be the case.
— Vin Scully (@TheVinScully) October 14, 2021
If Vin says it, I believe it.
“It was great every time we played those guys, just bringing the rivalry back to life, really playing for relevance,” Roberts said.
San Diegans probably will object, but this season and particularly this series served as a reminder of the importance of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry, not only its history and the way both franchises embrace it but its renewed relevance on the national stage.
And while this wasn’t the first postseason meeting between the rivals (again, see the link above), may it not be the last, either. This stuff is too good to keep to ourselves.
@Jim_Alexander on Twitter
(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)