Friday, November 19, 2021

Respect

BRANDON CRAWFORD has finished fourth in the National League MVP voting, behind Bryce Harper (now a two-time winner), Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis jr. Quite stellar company to keep, especially when you consider that Crawford is five years older than Harper and a decade older than the two young superstars. Crawford received four first-place votes, which is especially sweet considering the level of competition. 

Looking at Win Shares (on the billjamesonline.com site) we see there's a three-way tie at the top of the league between Harper, Soto, and.... Brandon Crawford, all of whom have 31 Win Shares. Tatis is just down the list with "only" 28. Win Shares are directly proportional to team wins, adjusted for park and league context, and thus don't measure against a moving, some would say elusive, target the way WAR does.

Harper's total of 31 Win Shares in the context of Philadelphia's 82 wins is tremendous, but Soto's 31 for a team that won only 65 is staggering, reminiscent of Steve Carlton's 27 pitching wins for the 1972 Phillies who finished 59-97. Crawford's 31 WS among the Giants' 107 wins is simply MVP-worthy in any season, and we're pleased the voters recognized it, and recognized the best shortstop in the major leagues.

We just finished compiling the comparative stats for the Giants-Dodgers division series, and Crawford's 31 WS lead everyone. He had more than both Turners, Corey Seager, Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer, or even the injured Max Muncy.  At 34, after 11 seasons, he is just entering the phase of his career where totals start to accumulate. He's about 800 hits shy of 2000 right now, he just won his fourth Gold Glove and could win his second Silver Slugger, and he's been on three All-Star teams. This is by far his highest MVP vote total (he was 12th in 2016, his only other appearance). Among shortstops he ranks 68th all-time by the JAWS method. Two more outstanding years would go a long way toward building his career reputation beyond San Francisco, where he stands about tenth or eleventh among all SF Giants (we haven't updated the totals with 2021 data yet; it's coming), and of course, number one at shortstop. Right now Travis Jackson, George Davis, and Art Fletcher stand ahead of him in career WAR as Giants shortstops; all of those greats, of course, played for the New York Giants well before World War II. 

But career totals will have to wait for a career to finish, and if there's one thing we wish for Brandon Crawford in addition to the well-earned respect he's finally received as a MVP finalist, it's a few more outstanding seasons as the shortstop for Our Team, and a long way to go to that finish line.




Friday, November 5, 2021

Buster

 


The news that Buster Posey had decided to retire at the top of his profession was received here with little shock and modest surprise. "It's just like him," was our first thought. That the Giants' beloved "face of the franchise," the team's one constant over a decade of unparalleled success, would decide to walk away of his own volition, still able to play at a high level but confident enough to get on with the next phase of his life, seemed and seems to be entirely in character. 

After two seasons marked by injury and visible decline, he took a full year off with the pandemic, then came back this season, roaring back, with his trademark power and skill and his uncanny ability to elevate his teammates' play, and he did it at age 34. On the field he led the Giants to a staggering 107 wins and a heroic battle against the defending world champions in the postseason. Now he walks away, his accomplishments historic and our memories untarnished by the inevitable slow decline that ends so many great careers. Like Joe Montana thirty years ago, Buster Posey somehow embodies the very success he helped create, and does so with class and dignity. Yes. Beloved. That's a good word for today.  

That Buster Posey is the greatest catcher in Giants' franchise history, dating back to 1883 in New York's Central Park, is a given. That he trails only Mays, McCovey, Marichal, and Barry Bonds among all San Francisco Giants in career accomplishments is likewise undisputed. Where he stands among the greatest ever to play his position is our subject now. 

Comparisons are an inevitable part of baseball, especially at times like this, and today we're reminded of two other rare players who left the game at the peak of their skills. Yes, there's Sandy Koufax, of course, but the guys we're thinking of are Kirby Puckett and Will Clark. Like Buster, Will retired after a fine (.319) season and an outstanding postseason; he was 36. Unlike Buster, Kirby Puckett was forced from the game by a medical condition; he was 35 and also a 12-year veteran. Kirby is in the Hall of Fame, deservedly; Will, as a first baseman, didn't compile the big career stats needed to impress the voters. As a catcher, we're sure Buster's 12 years at the top of his position, and his three rings, will more than make up for a relatively modest 1500 hits and 158 home runs.  There's already been a great deal of discussion on the MLB and other sites regarding his Hall of Fame status, with most acknowledging he will go, whether in 2027, his first year of eligibility, or soon thereafter.

Among all catchers, Buster ranks 14th according to the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system) on baseball-reference.com. Ten of the 13 ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame. Of those thirteen, two who aren't yet in Cooperstown, Joe Mauer and Gene Tenace, played much of their careers at first base and DH. Only two of those who are in-- Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey-- have more than three world championships to their credit. None of the other top 13 has more than one, except Johnny Bench with two. The only other catcher among the top twenty with three rings is Jorge Posada, a pretty good comp for Buster as a hitter, but who doesn't approach his level as a catcher.

WAR, and JAWS to an extent, are cumulative numbers, meaning the longer you play, the larger numbers you compile. Win Shares, which we've come to prefer to WAR and its cousins, is similar in that regard. But looking at WAR-per-162-games, we find Buster Posey fifth among catchers all-time, behind only Josh Gibson (incomplete data, but still), Bench, Mickey Cochrane (like Buster, a relatively short career), and 19th-century Hall of Famer Buck Ewing, another who played positions other than catcher as often or more than he caught. Keep in mind that Buster played 80% of his games-- over a thousand games-- behind the plate. 

When you add it all up: the numbers, the three championships, the MVP award, the batting title, the seven All-Star games, the pitchers he caught and coached to greatness, the three no-hit games, the team-record 54 postseason hits, the balance between offense and defense that only the very best catchers possess, and the reputation that follows him wherever he goes-- Buster Posey is Cooperstown-bound beyond any doubt.


We have a few memories of Buster Posey that have been circulating through our memory this morning.

How about game five of the 2012 division series at Cincinnati? The Giants, held almost hitless in the first two games, have battled back on the road to tie the series. Top five, bases loaded, Mat Latos on the mound, and Buster crushes one high and deep into the left-field seats. Grand slam, 6-0 Giants lead...  but an inning later it's 6-3, the Reds have first and second, nobody out, and Matt Cain is wobbling. As Dusty Baker calls a double steal on a full count, Buster frames a perfect strike three, then fires another strike to third and Jay Bruce is out-- double play! Giants win the game, 6-4, win the series, and go on to win the World Series. What catcher could do more? 

Game Four, 2010 LCS against mighty Philadelphia, bottom of the ninth, score tied. Posey, 3-for-4 already, drills a single to right off Roy Oswalt for his fourth hit, moving Aubrey Huff from first to third, from where he'll score the winning run a moment later on Juan Uribe's walk-off sac fly.  

Game Four, 2010 World Series, at the Ballpark in Arlington. Top of the eighth and it's time for Buster Posey's first World Series home run, a cannon shot to center field. The Giants, who had lost Game Three, win this one behind rookie Madison Bumgarner and win their first championship the following night, with Posey catching the ineffable Tim Lincecum.

Second game of the 2014 division series at Washington, top of the ninth. Nationals' ace Jordan Zimmermann is holding a 1-0 lead and hasn't allowed a hit since the third. But after Zim walks Joe Panik with two out, the Nats bring in closer Drew Storen. Posey rips a single up the middle, sending the tying run to second. Pablo Sandoval then doubles down the left-field line. Panik scores, and Buster, charging home with the go-ahead run, is thrown out by an eyelash on a spectacular play at the plate that holds up after replay and the most expressive emotional outburst Buster will ever put on. Three hours and nine exhausting innings later, the Giants win it in the 18th and go on to win their third world championship.  

This year. Opening Day against-- Seattle? No matter. Buster Posey's first at-bat of this 2021 season is a home run, setting the stage for a comeback season-of-all-seasons that led us to this bittersweet day.    

May 16 at Pittsburgh. We watch from behind the Giants' dugout as Buster picks Giants nemesis Adam Frazier off third-- by throwing to second baseman Mauricio Dubon! The rookie takes the throw, ignores Bryan Reynolds' steal of second and fires to third. Whoops! Caught him! He's out by a mile! "Only Buster does that," is the consensus among the fans in our section.

And then we have the first game of the division series at home against LA just a couple of weeks ago. Everything associated with this wonderful season is on the line. First inning, one on, two out, Walker Buehler on the mound-- and it's Buster Posey, clobbering one to deep right center that sails over the brick wall, ricochets off a stanchion and caroms into McCovey Cove. Could anyone have blamed us if we saw that as a harbinger of a fourth ring to come? For it was Buster Posey, rising to the occasion, as he did again and again over a memorable decade as the best catcher in major-league baseball.

See you in Cooperstown, Buster-- summer 2027!  

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves, 2021 World Series Champions



While this World Series overall lacked the drama we associate with the great Series of the past, it was a tight battle between two excellent teams, one that caught fire late in the season and another that played all year long as though they knew they'd be here at the end.  

The 2021 Atlanta Braves remind us a great deal of the 2014 and 2012 Giants World Championship teams. Like the 2014 Giants, these Braves won but 88 games, and they made it through the postseason and, especially, the World Series, with about half a starting rotation. No Madison Bumgarner heroics here, but then again the 2014 Giants didn't lose a starter to a fractured fibula mid-Series either. And like the 2012 Giants, these Braves made a series of trade-deadline deals that energized the team down the stretch and through the postseason. This all made it easy for us to pull for them to win it, though as everyone here knows we've great admiration for the Houston Astros team and organization, and for Dusty Baker. But hey, let's give Brian Snitker some major props, too. Four straight division titles, and year by year a steady climb through the postseason until, finally, his team reached the top.

It's no coincidence that our representative photo here shows commissioner Rob Manfred handing the trophy to the Braves. It was Manfred, remember, who shamefully and needlessly disrespected the people of Atlanta and of Georgia with his cowardly decision to knuckle under to a mob of "woke" bullies and pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. How fitting and how sweet it is for the Braves and their fans, and how sobering, perhaps, this moment was for him. We had hoped it would happen in Atlanta, but this will do. Dare we hope the pointless and embarrassing politicization of baseball will be rolled back after this?  


Saturday, October 16, 2021

THE San Francisco Giants lost the National League division series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, by the slimmest of margins, with a 2-1 defeat in the series' fifth game on Thursday night at Oracle Park. On a botched checked-swing call that will live in ignominy for years to come, Max Scherzer, in his first closer role, was given the final out in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run at the plate. The two best teams in baseball went head to head for a season, and then for a week, and the defending world champions prevailed by one game. With an assist.  

And so the Giants' unexpected, unprecedented, historic, and glorious 2021 season comes to an untimely end.  It's tough to lose, even to an opponent of such obvious stature, and it's especially tough to lose in a circumstance where the outcome is decided, not by the players, but by an umpire who made an honest but catastrophic mistake at the worst possible time, a mistake that was judgmental as well as mechanical. As a steward of the game of baseball, you remember where you are. And you just don't let a call like that decide a game like that. A game that could have been remembered as great will instead be remembered as tainted. 

Logan Webb, the Giants' undisputed ace, delivered another outstanding start, pitching seven innings of one-run ball under tremendous pressure. He was calm and unflappable throughout, and if his effort didn't quite measure up to that of the first game, well, whose did? Buster Posey has compared Webb's confidence and composure to that of Tim Lincecum in 2010, and those of us who remember know that's high praise indeed. The Giants' pitching staff may look completely different next year-- more on that later-- but we can be sure Logan Webb will stand at the center of it.

Then there's Tyler Rogers. After a team-high 80 appearances during the season, Rogers was called on four times in this five-game series, and Thursday night he did what he does-- he fought through a difficult inning without giving up a run, despite two hits including LA series hero Mookie Betts' fourth single of the game. If there's a keeper in the Giants' bullpen, it's the underhand ace.

And another keeper is Camilo Doval, the kid with the unlimited future, asked again to do in the ninth what  he had done in both Giants wins.  This time, well, he just couldn't. It started with a hit batsman-- Justin Turner, who would factor in later-- and was followed by a single from Gavin Lux, another youngster with a bright future. Then Cody Bellinger, who suffered through a thoroughly miserable and injury-plagued season, drilled a clean single into right field and Turner, who too often seems to put his special stamp on a Giants-Dodgers game, scored the run that would hold up and send LA to the NLCS.  Gabe Kapler summoned Kevin Gausman, his other ace, to get the last out, which he did as Doval sat in the dugout fighting his emotions.

And Dave Roberts, whose clever pitching-staff maneuvering should have been the story of this game from a Dodger perspective, sent Scherzer out in the ninth to protect that fragile lead. The three-time Cy Young Award winner was all over the place, not near his best, but still plenty good. Leading off, Brandon Crawford drilled an 0-2 pitch right on the nose--  and right at Chris Taylor in left. Kris Bryant, the Giants' most reliable hitter in this series, bounced one to third, but Turner, perhaps hurrying due to Bryant's speed, muffed it. With the tying run on base, "Late Night LaMonte" Wade stood in, with one more chance to live up to that name, but Scherzer got him on a 3-2 pitch that may have nicked the outside of the plate. So it was Flores, along with Darin Ruf-- more on him later-- the closest to a pure power hitter the Giants have. He was thinking walk-off homer with a big swing on the first pitch, then took a called strike two, and down to the team's last strike, he flinched but held up as it dropped low and outside. That's when Gabe Morales, standing at first, gave the game away with his egregious and, we believe, unconsciously grandstanding call. 

Yes, it should have been a great game. As we mentioned, Roberts played hide-and-seek with his starting pitcher, Julio Urias. He opened the game instead with right-handed power relievers Corey Knebel and Brustar Graterol, hoping Gabe Kapler would stack his lineup with left-handed batters. But Kapler didn't fall for the gambit: he added only one lefty, leadoff man Tommy LaStella, to the starting lineup. The Giants got three hits off the pair of openers but left the runners stranded, and Urias came on in the third. Kapler went all in against Urias, quickly inserting Austin Slater and Donovan Solano in place of Mike Yastrzemski and LaStella. But by keeping them out of the starting lineup, he held back Wade and Alex Dickerson for late-inning ABs, and each would get his chance. 

Webb, meanwhile, was setting 'em down with regularity, except for the redoubtable Betts. And Mookie scored the game's first run in the sixth when he singled, stole second, and scored on Corey Seager's hit, the only time Webb allowed two hits in one inning. Urias, meanwhile, was matching Webb nicely over his first three innings, and he struck out the side in the fifth. But after LA had taken the lead, Darin Ruf led off the bottom of the inning and clobbered a 3-2 fastball 452 feet to the back of the bullpen in center field, the longest home run hit in the postseason so far. Bryant followed with a single, but was left high and dry as Urias got Slater to ground out. And Urias was done, as Blake Treinen, Kenley Jansen (who got the win) and Scherzer finished it.  

Looking over the series as a whole, the raw stats appear to show a LA walkover. The Dodgers scored 18 runs to the Giants' ten, with 41 hits against 29, although the Giants outhomered 'em 5 to 3. Team ERA are likewise skewed: 2.05 for the Dodgers, 3.48 for the Giants. The biggest difference in the series is in the bullpens. Roberts' group was uniformly excellent; the Giants got only three runs off  the LA relievers, and two of those were in garbage time with the Dodgers well ahead. Giants relievers, by contrast, gave up 11 of LA's 18 runs. 'Nuff said!

Mookie Betts had 9 hits, Bryant 8, Buster Posey and LA's secret weapon, Will Smith, each had 6. LaStella and Slater hit well in limited duty.  Evan Longoria, who deserves maximum respect for his game-winning homer off Scherzer in the third game, nonetheless made 15 outs. The Dodgers' "Turner Brothers," NL batting champion Trea and long-time Giant-killer Justin, were a combined 4-for-42 with 9 strikeouts and one RBI. On the pitching side, nobody matched Webb's numbers, but LA's Graterol matched Rogers very well out of the 'pen-- four appearances, no runs allowed.

And so time and baseball march on. The Dodgers open the NLCS at Atlanta tonight. Houston came back to defeat Boston in Game One of the ALCS last night. But the thrill is gone, baby. The thrill is gone away. 

So are we. We'll be back probably around the end of the World Series to take a last look at the wonderful and historic 2021 San Francisco Giants team. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

THE San Francisco Giants face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the winner-take-all fifth game of the National League division series tonight at Oracle Park. Game time is slated for 6 PM local time (9 PM EDT).

It has to come down to this, right? The Giants and the Dodgers, as in 1951, as in 1962, playing one game for all the marbles and all the bragging rights associated with sports' greatest rivalry. It had to come down to this. And it has.

Logan Webb will start for the Giants against LA's Julio Urias, and little else needs to be said about these two aces. Both have won a game in this series already, both are among the game's finest young pitchers, and both are capable of shutting down the opposition and giving their team every chance to win. The Giants will have Kevin Gausman, fully rested, in reserve, in case a "Madison Bumgarner Game Seven" effort is needed. And while he hasn't said anything about it, Dave Roberts is unlikely to balk at using Max Scherzer if he needs him, even on two days' rest. 

Speaking of rest, we're here, at least in part, because Walker Buehler did not falter in his short-rest start on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. He was not at his best, but he was good enough to make it into the fifth with only one run allowed, and his teammates took care of business behind him with bat and glove. The Dodgers' 7-2 win in game four was highlighted by Mookie Betts (2-for-4, home run, 3 RBI), Corey Seager (2 hits, 2 runs scored), Will Smith (2 hits, 2 RBI), and Gavin Lux, Trea Turner, and a resurgent Cody Bellinger, all with two hits each. Unlike Saturday's game, this was not a close one that burst open late. No, LA scored in four of the first five innings as the Giants hustled pitcher after pitcher in and out of the action like salesmen through a revolving door. Starting with Anthony DeSclafani, who just can't seem to figure out the Dodgers, it took six pitchers just to cover those five innings, and of the eight Gabe Kapler finally used, only Jose Alvarez (one batter) and Zack Littell (two fine innings, bless his heart) escaped unscathed. LA put so many men on base it seemed like they were up by twice the margin most of the night; overall the tally was twelve hits, five walks, and one error. They left 11 men on base and were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Heaven knows how many runs they'd have scored had they hit the ball a little more effectively!

Well, none of that matters now. Short memories in this game, for the players, and decades of history, for us fans, have led us to this point. Never in 27 years of it has there been a division series game like this, with this much on the line, all things considered. The great rivalry. Two 100-win teams in the same division playing each other in a postseason series. A razor-thin margin between them: Giants have won 12, LA has won 11. The defending world champions, a genuine dynasty in their ninth consecutive postseason, against the archetypal Team From Nowhere. For once, the hype is real. We can't say any more. Not a blessed thing.

Except this:  GO GIANTS !    

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

 THE San Francisco Giants defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 1-0, at Dodger Stadium last night, and thereby took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five National League division series.

"Overcoming obstacles" is what the Giants do, all right, and there's no more formidable obstacle than the defending world champions, the highest-scoring team in baseball-- whom the Giants have somehow managed to shut out twice in three games. On a rare chilly and windy night at Chavez Ravine, it was a tense, terrific mix of long-ball and small-ball, with the focus on pitching and defense.  

There was pitching aplenty. Max Scherzer, generally regarded as the best in the game, pitched like it, holding the Giants to three hits over seven innings and 110 pitches. The Giants made him work hard, but he made only one mistake-- a high fastball to Evan Longoria in the top of the fifth. The veteran, battling a slump so fierce many fans thought he should have been riding the pine, crushed a high drive to deep left-center, and on a night when several home-run balls were blown back into play, this one prevailed against the wind and hit the seats. And it would have to hold up, because Scherzer, Blake Treinen, and Kenley Jansen didn't allow another baserunner over the final four innings.

Alex Wood is not a three-time Cy Young Award winner, but he is 13-1 as a starter following a Giants loss, and that's the kind of stat champions carry. Wood pitched two-hit shutout ball into the fifth (both hits were by the great Albert Pujols, 41, starting at first base), and yielded to Tyler Rogers for the final out-- and then for two more shutout innings, the submarining righty's longest stint of the season. Jake McGee, back in the spotlight, finished the tag-team setup role with two on and one out in the seventh thanks to a defensive play for the ages.  Finally it was Camilo Doval, asked to pitch a two-inning save. He only had to face Trea Turner, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner in the eighth-- and he set them down quietly in order. Then he went out and set the side down in order again in the ninth, a dominant performance that was punctuated by sudden drama.

We  mentioned the wind. Half a dozen players crushed the ball deep enough for home runs or extra bases, including Mike Yastrzemski, Brandon Crawford, and LA center fielder Chris Taylor. But it was the last out of the game that everyone will remember. Young Doval had blown through the Dodger lineup, neutralizing some of the best hitters in the game. With two out, up stepped diminutive Gavin Lux, whose one distinguishing skill is his ability to hit the ball hard. He sure did, a towering drive to deepest left-center, as Steven Duggar retreated toward the wall and the fans who'd received Longoria's shot prepared to leap for the ball that would make it a tie game. Then Duggar suddenly reversed course, stepped forward, and caught the windblown ball ten feet short of the fence to end the game. Shades of Candlestick!  

We mentioned defense. There were a number of fine plays on both sides; Trea Turner, Donovan Solano, Duggar, and Mookie Betts come to mind. But there was one play that no one-- especially Mr Betts-- will ever forget, the defensive play that saved the ballgame. Two on and one out and Jake McGee on in relief of Rogers. He got Austin Barnes on a perfect freeze-frame called third strike, but that brought up Betts. These are the moments the Dodgers have seized again and again to break games open, and Betts did his part. He ripped a scorching line drive to left, a sure RBI single-- except Crawford got in the way with a vertical leap and an outstretched glove. He snagged it to end the inning, and the TV cameras caught a perfectly astonished Mookie Betts frozen in mid-stride. The highlight video's already got about twenty million views; go see it if you haven't already.  It's moments like these that have made this Giants' season.

And so the San Francisco Giants can wrap up this "preliminary"--hah!-- series tonight, and if not, they've got home-field advantage and Logan Webb for Thursday. Tonight at 6 PM PDT (9 PM EDT) it's Anthony DeSclafani, and we don't mean to slight him in any way. But the bullpen behind him, thanks especially to Rogers and Doval, is deep and rested. As for Dave Roberts, he has options, many options, as he faces a win-or-else game. Might he bring back Walker Buehler, who pitched well enough in the first game and rarely loses two in a row? He knows it would be short rest for the ace righthander, and history is replete with examples of fine pitchers who came up short in those situations. Roberts' fourth starter is Tony Gonsolin, hardly a household name but a good pitcher. The Giants roughed him up in his only start against San Francisco, back in July at Dodger Stadium. It was his only loss in 13 starts, though, and he posted a 3.23 over the regular season.

It doesn't matter who it is, does it? These are the Giants. Does anyone really think they can't beat whoever stands against them?   


Shout Out

We'd like to take this opportunity to praise Maria Guardado, the beat writer on the Giants' website. Morning after morning she turns out well-written, impeccably proofread, and highly readable stories about the previous night's game, and periodically about upcoming games or series, roster moves, perspectives on the season, and responses to readers' questions. She mixes hard facts with her own observations and with quotes from players and coaches, keeping a balance between narrative and description. While a professional, her  viewpoint is clearly a fan's, yet she avoids cliches and cutesy attempted witticisms. All you have to do is read a few articles from sports "writers" on other sites-- replete with grammatical errors, badly constructed sentences, atrocious wording, political bias, numbing repetition, and other embarrassing examples of the copy editor's desk being permanently vacant-- to appreciate Miss Guardado's work. We don't know how these assignments are handed out, nor do we know how long she'll be covering our Giants, but let's enjoy what we have for now and send her a note of appreciation now and then. Her twitter handle is posted on the byline of her articles.  

Monday, October 11, 2021

THE San Francisco Giants face the Los Angeles Dodgers in game three of the National League division series tonight at Dodger Stadium. Game time is slated for 6:37 PM local time, 9:37 PM PDT.  The Giants will try to retake the lead in this series after LA won game two decisively, 9-2, Saturday night at Oracle Park.  Tonight the Dodgers will send their best, Max Scherzer, out to start while the Giants will start Alex Wood, the former Dodger.        

About Saturday's game, little enough need be said. Kevin Gausman struggled early, walking Mookie Betts to start the game and then giving up two runs in the second, establishing a lead LA never lost. Julio Urias, the 20-game-winning lefty, made that second inning especially ugly with a two-run single after the Giants had intentionally walked A.J. Pollock to get to him. But the Giants cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the frame and Gausman settled down, retiring ten in a row, and it stayed a close game until the sixth. Trea Turner led that inning off with a double, and when Will Smith walked with one out, Gabe Kapler went to his bullpen. Sadly, Dominic Leone just didn't have it, and after a walk-double-double sequence, it was 6-1. To cap the climax, the Giants tried to answer back in the bottom of the sixth with a walk, a single, and a RBI single by Brandon Crawford, but Wilmer Flores ignored that old rule which says you never make the third out at third base. Betts' perfect throw from right nailed him trying to advance from first, and that ended the rally, the inning and, effectively, the game. 

With the win, LA took the home-field advantage; they can now win out at Dodger Stadium. But the Giants have overcome every single one of these types of obstacles during this season, and no one with any sense will say they can't do it now. 


Notes
Two fine pitchers, Milwaukee's Corbin Burnes and Atlanta's Max Fried, have set the tone for the other NL division series, which also stands tied at 1-1 and resumes this evening in Atlanta... The 100-game-winning Tampa Bay Rays are in danger of blowing their AL division series with Boston after winning the first game. The Red Sox' power has told the story the last two nights, and their bullpen has yet to collapse... Houston had a chance to close out the White Sox in Chicago last night, but Tony LaRussa's bunch put up 12 runs last night and can force a game five with a win tomorrow.