The Dodgers Have One Game to Unfreeze Their Bats

With their season on the brink of extinction and Walker Buehler starting on short rest, LA's vaunted offense needs to hit tonight or their season's over.

LOS ANGELES—Max Scherzer gave the Dodgers everything they could have asked for last night: seven strong innings of one-run ball and ten strikeouts. The problem was that the Dodgers vaunted offense couldn’t score one (1) run to give the team a chance to win. It was the first time Los Angeles lost a game Scherzer started in 13 tries. It could not have come at a worse time.

The game was miserable, and not just because the Dodgers lost. I’ve been going to Dodger Stadium my whole life and I’ve never been as cold. The final pitch was thrown more than 12 hours ago and I’m still shivering. How cold was it, Molly? Glad you asked! I spent innings 3-9 huddled with my family in the reserve level concourse for warmth, where the wind could not freeze me to death. I expect this kind of weather in San Francisco. It’s why I do not live there even though it’s an incredible city filled with friends and family I love. I simply cannot handle being cold and focusing on baseball at the same time. My nervous system has not evolved to reach this peak.

And apparently neither can the Dodgers! I knew the team was in for a rough night during the top of the first when the wind was so strong it knocked Scherzer off the mound as the foul poles swayed like we were having an earthquake. Early on in the game it seemed like it got super windy whenever the Giants batted and calmer when the Dodgers hit, but honestly the wind affected both teams the same. I know Dodger fans are hung up on this:

And this:

Yes, the wind turned both of these game-tying extra base hits into outs. But guess what? Evan Longoria figured out a way to hit a baseball through a tornado into the bleachers. And the Giants won 1-0.

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What else is there to say? 1-0 playoff baseball games are especially awesome because the trailing team can tie the game with one swing of the bat at any time. The Dodgers tried their best to do it but failed. And now their season is on the brink because of it.

If you’re a Giants fan, you have to feel pretty good right now. (Unless you’re Grant Brisbee and you broke your elbow celebrating Gavin Lux’s wind aided warning track fly out to end the game. No, seriously.) The Dodgers torched San Francisco’s starting pitcher for tonight, Anthony DeSclafani, this season but the Giants are playing with house money down here. Even if they lose tonight’s game they’ve got their ace Logan Webb lined up for game 5 back in the Bay. Would it feel better for them to knock the Dodgers out in front of their home fans or at Dodger Stadium? I’m going with Dodger Stadium, just because that game comes first.

Dodger fans have seen this movie before. In 2019 the Nationals knocked them out at home. The Red Sox eliminated LA at Dodger Stadium in 2018, and the Astros sent them home at the Ravine in 2017. I guess this bodes well for the Dodgers that road teams can come back from the brink and win elimination games on the road because they’ve seen it happen a lot lately? I’m reaching, here.

There’s not really much to unpack from last night’s game except that Dodger bats better unfreeze tonight or their season is over. It’s six hours until the first pitch and we just learned that Walker Buehler will start for LA on short rest tonight. I didn’t even realize that was an option, as I was led to believe that him starting on short rest ever was not an option. The Dodgers forced Kershaw into doing it every year instead, to disastrous results. But I get it. There really is no tomorrow if they don’t win tonight, so they may as well roll out their best option, even if they only expect four to five innings from him at best.

If the Dodgers do lose tonight, I’ll still be writing just about every day through October, and we’ll still do a few live game threads a week. As things currently stand, the Giants and Astros are favored to meet each other in the World Series, which is an actual nightmare for Dodger fans, so I won’t talk about it anymore until it happens. Gulp. Sigh.

With DeSclafani on the bump, Cody Bellinger figures to be back in the lineup tonight. The wind is not supposed to be a factor. Maybe Bellinger can continue his clutch hitting from San Francisco? Maybe Trea Turner’s and Corey Seager’s offense can show up? Maybe Buehler will shove on short rest?

It’s so hard to know what to make of this team. The Dodgers tied the all-time franchise record for wins this season with 106 and yet sometimes their offense takes games off. Scoring nine runs one night and then getting shut out the next during this series feels a little on the nose. Meanwhile, Joc Pederson hit the game winning pinch hit three-run homer for the Braves yesterday, and Kiké Hernandez knocked in the series clinching RBI for the Red Sox over the Rays. It was a mistake to let both of them walk last winter, and it hurts even worse now. Especially Hernandez, who will only make $7 million this year.) The Dodgers absolutely could have afforded to keep him, and letting him walk was front office malpractice. The Dodgers braintrust thought Zach McKinstry was ready to fill in. He wasn’t, and he’s not even on the NLDS roster. I’ll have a lot more to say about the Dodgers disastrous offseason moves if they get bounced tonight.

Until then, keep the faith. All the Dodgers have to do to advance and knock out their arch rivals is win two piddling baseball games. Now let’s see if they can do it.