It's a Sudden Death Game 5 and I Am Out of the Prediction Business
After my record so far this playoffs, I’m going to just sit back and enjoy the show.
Before we dive into the Giants and Dodgers epic series, I’d like to thank the Braves, Astros, and Red Sox for keeping me humble. I somehow picked the wrong winner for all three of those series’, which is difficult to do! I might have to give the edge to the Giants tomorrow since I predicted the Dodgers in five. Joe Posnanski and I will do a championship round prediction piece just like we did for the division series, because I apparently haven’t been wrong enough. If you’re smart you will put money on whoever I pick against!
I don’t know what I was thinking betting against Freddie Freeman and his hugs. I guess I wasn’t aware of how anemic the Brewers offense is. The Astros blew the White Sox off the diamond. And the Red Sox activated turbo beast mode to take out a very good Rays team. Houston looks better than Boston, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora is so good in the playoffs I don’t feel comfortable counting them out.
The real bummer here is that no series except Giants vs. Dodgers went five games, meaning there is no baseball today for the first time since the all-star break. :(
But what a Game 5 we will get tomorrow. Boy, howdy! Two 109-win teams meeting in the playoffs for the first time in history? And they happen to be arch rivals who have never met in the postseason until now? Yes, please.
The Dodgers offense unfroze last night and plated seven runs. Mookie Betts and Will Smith homered. Cody Bellinger continued his resurgent competence. Gavin Lux looks like the player he was supposed to turn into way back when he was one of the top prospects in baseball three years ago. Their offense was so overwhelming it didn’t matter that they only went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, because it turns out that when you hit a baseball over a fence you are in scoring position.
Walker Buehler was excellent on short rest last night. Dave Roberts said after the game that his stuff looked even better than it did in game 1 when he was on regular rest. TBS analyst (and Hall of Fame pitcher) Pedro Martinez said he thought Buehler was better because he kept his adrenaline in check and conserved his energy knowing he was not as rested as usual. If the Dodgers advance to the next round I don’t think anyone in blue will have a problem pitching Buehler on short rest in an elimination game if necessary. That might not be necessary. If LA does make it to the NLCS, Max Scherzer would be lined up to start game 1 and game 5 on regular rest, with Buehler and Julio Urías lined up for games 2 and 3 and then games 6 and 7. The only game in need of a different starter (or one of those guys on short rest) would be game 4. But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here.
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Right now the Giants are just as good as the Dodgers. Period. Full stop. I gave the edge to the Dodgers a few weeks ago when both Clayton Kershaw and Max Muncy were healthy, but now they’re not. It’s a gut punch that either of these teams has to lose in the first round, and it will not be indicative of how great the losing team is. It’s a bummer these teams can’t meet in the NLCS, but I do not make the rules.
Back when I wrote my five questions preview of this series I put Logan Webb at number one because I knew he’d be going twice and I knew the Giants would go the way he goes. Webb made me look smart by throwing 7.2 innings of shutout ball in game 1. I also wrote that Urías would be the X-factor for the Dodgers. Well, here we are. Tomorrow night Webb will square off with Urías in a winner-take-all game 5 that will be the biggest game these two teams have ever played against each other. (Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ‘round the world” happened in a tiebreaker series at the end of the regular season.)
Both Webb and UrÍas have been outstanding in this series. Webb has only one career playoff start but he didn’t give up a run and looks unhittable. UrÍas limited the Giants to one run in his game 2 win, and proved his playoff bonafides last season when he closed out the NLCS and then the World Series. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow (obviously). But given that it’s an elimination game for both teams, both pitchers will be on short leashes and are likely to be yanked at the first whiff of trouble. If it turns into a battle of the bullpens then it’s advantage Dodgers. Just look at this pitch from the Dodgers fifth best reliever Brusdar Graterol:
If it turns into a battle of managers, I’d also give the Dodgers the advantage. Gabe Kapler looked surprisingly jumpy in game 4, and used damn near all of his players in a game the Giants trailed the whole way. Roberts is not as good tactically as Alex Cora or, say, Craig Counsell, but he has managed his team to the World Series in three out of the last four seasons. I have been critical of Roberts over the years, but after watching Kapler get rattled on Tuesday night I would absolutely take Roberts over him in this crucial game.
So what do I think will happen in game 5? I have no idea. And neither does anyone else. I’m going to stick with my prediction of the Dodgers, though, because of Urías postseason experience and also there are no takebacksies. But if the Giants do win it will be because they are the better team. Not because of the wind or devil magic or any other excuse Dodger fans might use to warm themselves during a cold winter’s day.
We’ve got Dodgers and Giants playing a do-or-die sudden death game with their seasons on the line tomorrow. What could be better?