Thursday night in San Francisco brought late-night dramatics, sending one Bruin alumnus to the next round and the other packing.
Manager Dave Roberts and the Los Angeles Dodgers fell behind in the NLDS 2-1, but powered back to take down shortstop Brandon Crawford and the San Francisco Giants in Games 4 and 5, advancing to the NLCS thanks to a 2-1 win in the winner-take-all elimination contest. The game-ending check-swing call caused controversy, but the series wound up being just as close as one would expect from two heated rivals with 100-plus wins.
Roberts, who played for UCLA from 1991-1994, opened Thursday with a controversial decision to start relief pitcher Corey Knebel instead of starting pitcher Julio Urías, who had 20 wins and a sub-3.00 ERA in 2021. The decision, however, ended up working out for the Dodgers, with Knebel pitching a scoreless frame in the first before passing the torch to Brusdar Graterol and eventually Urias, who went 4.0 innings.
Crawford went 1-for-4 at the plate Thursday with a single to left field off of Urías in the fourth inning. The Bruin alumnus, who played at Jackie Robinson Stadium from 2006-2008, made a big play during Game 3 of the series that helped put his team in the driver’s seat earlier in the week.
With the Dodgers threatening with two men on in the bottom of the seventh inning, outfielder Mookie Betts hit a line drive seemingly high enough to get into left field. Crawford jumped high in the air, snagging the ball to keep the Giants’ lead at one. They would go on to win that game 1-0.
2021 had been somewhat of a reclamation year for the Giants shortstop, with Crawford putting up multiple career highs at the plate this summer. He played in 138 games, hitting for a .298 batting average, 24 home runs and 90 RBIs. This earned him a two-year contract extension from San Francisco as well.
Crawford tried to carry that regular season success and clutch postseason defense to the plate late Thursday with the Giants trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, only for his night to end on a hard-hit line drive to left that nearly got down for a leadoff hit. The shortstop represented the tying run, but San Francisco got blanked in the final frame by Los Angeles’ newly-acquired ace Max Scherzer as the deciding game went final.
Roberts and Crawford were the only former Bruins taking part in the series, but another alumnus was around the Dodgers’ team over the past week. Chase Utley took part in batting practice activities, and he could be seen talking shop with Roberts behind the protective barrier while the Dodgers took swings.
UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond made it known who he was rooting for last night, sending out a celebratory tweet after the Dodgers’ victory.
Roberts and the Dodgers will play next on Saturday, taking on the Atlanta Braves to start the NLCS.