SAN FRANCISCO — First the old guy hit a home run. Then the guy you’d never heard of before this year threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings. Then a guy who’s been hurt a bunch made a key play. Then the other old guy hit a home run. Then the other guy you’d never heard of closed it out.
Here come the Giants. They dispatched the Dodgers 4–0 in Game 1 of the National League Division Series the way they won 107 games this year, most in the sport and most in franchise history: with a collection of veterans having resurgent seasons, a roster of players who shuffle on and off the injured list, and young studs shining under the bright lights.
“That was our message going into the series,” said Old Guy No. 2, 34-year-old shortstop and MVP candidate Brandon Crawford. “Not to change what we’ve been doing. Obviously it worked during the regular season. We’re still playing baseball games. They’re big games, you have a little less leash, but going into every game, that’s kind of our approach: Do everything the same that we did all year.”
That’s bad news for Los Angeles, which never managed to solve Guy You’d Never Heard of No. 1, 24-year-old righty Logan Webb. Making his first postseason start and facing the most patient team in the NL, Webb struck out 10 and did not issue a walk. He spun a game straight out of 2014, mixing his two-seamer, slider and changeup. He did not allow a fly ball until the fifth inning. He induced five ground balls back to himself. He got into one three-ball count all night, against A.J. Pollock—and he struck him out.
“I’m so impressed with him,” said left fielder Kris Bryant, who also homered. “His first playoff experience and he was just out there pretending like it’s a game in the backyard. It was really fun to watch. Really fun.”
Old Guy No. 1, 34-year-old catcher Buster Posey, drew a different comparison: “It felt a little bit like [Tim] Lincecum against the Braves in [the 2010 NLDS],” he said. Lincecum threw a two-hit shutout that night. Three weeks later, the Giants won their first title since 1954 to begin a run of three in five years.
Not since the second of those, in 2012, had Posey hit a postseason home run. His shot on Friday came in the first inning, nearly landed in McCovey Cove—”That dang column,” Posey lamented—and staked the Giants to a 2–0 lead. Oracle Park shook as the fans roared. One literally tossed a cap in the air. The reaction was similar for Crawford, who hit one in the seventh for the first time since ’14.
Crawford, though, was more excited to discuss the double play he and second baseman Tommy La Stella—the Guy Who’s Been Hurt a Bunch—turned in the fourth inning. L.A.’s Justin Turner bounced a broken-bat grounder up the middle. Crawford broke for the ball, La Stella for the bag. Then they changed their minds. La Stella scooped up the ball, then, with his momentum heading toward third base, flipped it toward second. Crawford gloved it and fired to first to end the inning. La Stella also worked a walk to lead off the game and lined a pair of two-strike singles.
“This is sort of who we thought Tommy was going to be,” said manager Gabe Kapler. “He’s had some challenges this season that he’s had to overcome. We’ve talked a little bit about being gritty as players, and I think Tommy has had to be gritty because he’s had injuries and his body just hasn’t cooperated all that well with him.”
Indeed, La Stella was playing in only his 77th game this season after spending three months on the injured list nursing a strained left hamstring. That was barely remarkable on a team that led the NL in trips to the IL, with 37 players needing time off. All told, the Giants lost 1,932 days to injuries.
Posey lost even more. He sat out last season as the pandemic swept the world. He and his wife, Kristen, adopted newborn twins in July 2020, and they feared that he might bring the coronavirus home to them if he played. He spent some of the year resting his balky right hip and some preparing for ’21. (A favorite arm workout was throwing balled-up diapers to his then-9-year-old son, Lee.) Posey reported to Scottsdale, Ariz., this spring, feeling refreshed and ready for the season. He has produced his best year since at least 2017, with an OPS of .889, best in baseball among regular catchers.
Webb was 15 years old for Posey’s last postseason dinger. So was Camilo Doval, Guy You’d Never Heard of No. 2 and the Giants’ most lethal relief weapon. Doval, who entered the night with 27 major league innings pitched, entered in the top of the ninth inning and retired the Dodgers on nine pitches. His slowest fastball registered 99.1 mph. Doval spent 2019 at High-A San Jose, then lost nearly a year of development when the pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season. San Francisco sent him to Triple A to open ’21 anyway, then called him up in April. He struggled with his command and went back down in May, then returned in August and began blowing hitters away. In September, after Doval escaped a bases-loaded, no out jam with a three-pitch strikeout and a double play, assistant pitching coach J.P. Martinez laid two fingers on his neck in the dugout to make sure he was alive.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, he is. As are the rest of the Giants. And this is what they do.
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