SAN FRANSISCO – Game 1 was a toner. A letter of intent.
These giants are no underdogs.
Not in this series. Not against this opponent.
And not when they have these types of lineups. Or when they play at home, in front of these fans.
And certainly not when their new ace is on the mound.
Las Vegas bookmakers could have expected NL West Dodgers second place to beat the Giants in first place in this best-of-five series, but I imagine the odds have turned after the Giants’ impressive 4-0 win Friday night in Oracle Park .
The spotlight for baseball in October highlights all the team’s shortcomings.
It also reveals greatness.
It should not be said – the Giants won 107 games in the regular season, more than any other team in baseball – but since they are the bookmakers’ underdog in this series, it is important to repeat that the Giants are a great team.
Friday night there were nine rounds of repetition.
The bright light brought out the best in San Francisco.
The moment was anything but too big for them. They did not just rise to it, they raised it.
They were loose and confident and played with an appropriate swing.
Is it any surprise that the Giants who have rings on their fingers – Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, Kris Bryant – who came through huge for San Francisco?
Posey’s first inning – homer – a shot in the opposite field to the arcade in the right field – ensured that the anticipation that permeated the ball field at the beginning of the match did not turn into anxiety. It’s always easier to play ahead. Posey knows he swung 3-0.
There was no subsequent offensive attack as in Sunday’s match 162, but the buzz in the ballpark reached a new level in the fourth.
Crawford had a Golden Glove caliber year at the age of 34, but a week without feet between the final of the regular season and the playoff opening made him look like his 24-year-old self on Friday. The double play that he, Tommy La Stella and first baseman Wilmer Flores turned in the fourth round, was the kind others would never dare to try in such an important game.
LaStella’s quick turnaround with the glove almost sent an email to Crawford, finishing second, but the Giants shortstop and MVP candidate managed to secure the baton, look up and fire a missile until first in enough time to beat Justin Turner.
The play was so daring – everyone in Oracle Park was so sure it would only be a field choice – that the amount of 41,934 was delayed in delivering the approval.
When it came, it was simply deafening.
Three laps later, Bryant came through. The Giants’ big name trade deadline acquisition had been rolling in recent weeks, going 10-for-49 with a terrible .576 OPS, but Dodgers starter Walker Buehler threw him a 3-2 fastball in the middle of the middle plate and Bryant did not miss it. His homer to the left-center field was no doubt and gave the insurance race the Giants had wanted since the first.
Crawford – who else? – add one more on the eighth.
All the while, Logan Webb fought the battle of his life.
Webb does not have the pedigree of a Posey or Crawford or Bryant, but he was the star of Friday’s game, went 7.2 laps, knocked out 10 and allowed zero runs.
Then delete the previous statement – he did not have the pedigree.
Webb’s bulldog performance, which easily cut through the Dodgers’ lineup, threw sandbags and dropped sliders and changes from the board, were legends.
As a 24-year-old, Webb’s back-to-back performance – Game 162 and Friday’s Game 1 – guarantees that he will never have to pay for another drink in Northern California.
Remember: Dodgers’ lineup should be relentless. Webb got players worth well over a total of a billion dollars to look like a Double-A-affiliated company. LA had some picky singles, a pair of dribbles and a double – a byproduct of a Will Smith slider in the seventh.
Signs of problems? A crack in the foundation? Of course not.
Webb got bored and threw a series of the ugliest wrestling balls you will ever see to take out Nos. 2 and 3 with strikes.
If San Francisco is to win this series, Webb had to get out of the gate with a strong start. There are not many separation points between these two teams, so which starting pitcher had the best game 1 start – keeping the bull intact and not putting much pressure on the attack – would give their team not only a 1-0 lead, but an advantage which may well last through the series.
They reaped that benefit – both mentally and physically – on Friday.
Tyler Rodgers spelled Webb, picked the final out of the eighth with two lanes, and the iceman, Camilo Doval, wiped up the rest in the ninth to sing “Beat LA.”
It was the Dodgers who seemed on the back foot throughout the match. They were the ones who missed the strike zone, and bubbled grounders and complained to the judges. They were supposed to be the team that peaked in the playoffs.
After eight years of division titles and rarely the feeling of heat, they finally meet a worthy opponent.
They do not seem to like it.
The good news is that if the Giants continue to play as they did on Friday, the Dodgers will not have to put up with it for long.