Friday, October 15, 2021

Post-2021 NLDS Game 5 Thread: Cody Bellinger Was Clutch, But SoSG Sax Is The Real Hero

DODGERS 2, GIANTS 1

In one of the most tense Dodgers playoff games I have ever watched, the Dodgers overcame the ghosts of Giants playoff games past, winning 2021 NLDS Game 5 in its final inning. The game's box score looked identical for the Giants and Dodgers through the first eight innings, with each team showing one run on six hits, and both runs coming in the sixth inning (Dodgers, off a Mookie Betts single and stolen base, scoring on a Corey Seager RBI double; Giants, on a solo home run to deep center by Darren Ruf).

Justin Turner was batting 0-for-3 with a walk in this game, capping an uncharacteristically anemic .083 batting average this postseason. But when Camilo Doval hit Justin Turner in the top of the ninth with one out, that opened up a sliver of hope for the Dodgers that seemed to elude them all game (the Dodgers ended the game 2-for-10 with RISP, and 7 LOB). Gavin Lux worked a great AB for a solid single to right, his first hit of the game (despite great at bats all game long). JT advances to second. And then, the light-hitting Cody Bellinger scorched an RBI single right through the shift to have the Dodgers take the lead:

Bellinger was the hero. Bellinger, after a trying season full of injuries and disappointing ABs. I was very worried by his plate appearance here in the ninth (I thought he was going to GIDP), and I was very proud to be proven wrong by his GWRBI. Way to go, Cody!

The bottom of the ninth wasn't a cakewalk, though. Dave Roberts' insane pitching choices this game, starting out with Corey Knebel for the first inning; Brusdar Graterol for the second; and Julio Urias for the third-through-sixth frames, seemed to leave us high and dry after using Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen one inning earlier than normal. As the LAT's Dylan Hernandez pointed out, the unusual starter decision drove Giants manager Gabe Kapler to burn left-handed batters Tommy La Stella and Mike Yastrzemski early, making them unable to pinch-hit later. Who knows, it might have gotten the Giants spinning, spending energy trying to react to the unconventional move.

As an aside, I've learned to have trust in Doc Roberts' calls. The decision to start Knebel "went all the way to the tippy-top of the organization," Roberts said (the LAT also reported that Roberts told Kapler abou the Knebele decison at 10pm on Wednesday night, though the news didn't break to the public until aroudn 12 hours later). That said, the decision to have Chris Taylor bunt in the top of the ninth, with one out and men at the corners, was ridiculous. Taylor was stroking the ball well, a squeeze play at the plate was unnecesary, and Taylor popped his bunt up for an out anyway. That ended up leaving the score at 2-1 LA, at a time when a third run really seemend necessary to win this one.

Max Scherzer came in to pitch the ninth and line up for his first career save. But should this game go to extras, it wasn't clear what arms might be left to utilize.

Scherzer got Brandon Crawford to fly out to Chris Taylor in left field. Then Kris Bryant reached on an error by Justin Turner, which was bone-chilling. Winning run now comes to the plate. You sort of got the sense that one more mistake from Scherzer--in an unfamiliar position--would cost the Dodgers the game. Giants manager Gabe Kapler threw in "Late Night" LaMonte Wade to pinch hit, and he Kd looking on a beautiful pitch to the outside high corner, ending a very tense AB. And then, controversy struck, when Wilmer Flores struck out on a close call check swing that was called a game- and series-ending strike. And I mean, a very close call:

Giants fans are understandably angry; that's a shitty way to lose a game. However, so was losing on July 22, when a check swing that should have been called strike 3 was mis-called as ball 4, leading to Kenley Jansen walking in the tying run, in an eventual 5-3 loss to the Giants.

Kapler, in his post-game conference, was disappointed by the call but reiterated "that was not the sole reason we lost that game." Gotta hand it to Kapler for that poise and professionalism in the wake of that loss.

Maybe this is the baseball gods restoring order. I was at that July 22 Giants @ Dodgers game, and yes, it hurt--even in a game much less meaningful than this one. But given that game would have had the Dodgers win the season series with the Giants (and the division), meaning NLDS Game 5 would be in Los Angeles,... perhaps it's karma. Or payback for The New York Giants stealing signs in 1951.

Baseball karma.

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Okay so by this point you are probably asking how SoSG Sax could have been the hero, when all he did was watch the game 300 miles away on television, pacing a groove in the floor just like every other Dodgers fan during that tense Game 5 matchup?

I went to NLDS Game 3. And I was fortunate enough to go in a suite, which gives access to not only great views, but food and beverages. And oh, there were a lot of beverages. I got to Game 3 very early, giving me a chance to have many of the beers in the refrigerator during the course of the game (always drinking responsibly, of course). Scherzer was on the mound against Alex Wood. The Dodgers, tied 1-1 in the series with two games at home, looked poised to win Game 3.

But unfortunately, that was the blustery and cold night that the Dodgers lost, when winds knocked down shots from Chris Taylor and Gavin Lux short of the wall that Evan Longoria was lucky enough to crest, in the Giants' 1-0 victory.

Mind you, this was my third visit to that suite this year. And all three times, the Dodgers had lost.

I was going back to that same suite for NLDS Game 4. And now, I was very worried. Was it my presence in that area that was dragging the Dodgers down? I even considered not going to the game at all, but that seemed extreme.

So late the night of Game 3, I made a vow: I would not drink any alcohol as long as the Dodgers were playing in the 2021 postseason.

Please note, this is a HUGE sacrifice to the baseball gods. I can't remember the last time I was at a baseball game and not drinking a beer, but I am guessing I was underage at the time. Having a beer at a baseball game is one of my passions, coupled with two of my favorite things in the world: baseball, and beer. Maybe not in that order.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, though. So I went to the game. The Dodgers romped to a 7-2 victory. And while friends and acquaintances cheered and clinked cans of Stella Artois and Modelo, I drank Aha flavored seltzer water and Dasani.

One thing I did notice was that I need to fidget while watching a game. So I ate a lot of chips and popcorn. Guess that's why I'm sipping a lot of beer during a game, normally.

But I also noticed, it wasn't tooooooo bad to be dry while watching the Dodgers. I could do this. I think.

So, bolstered by the Dodgers' win in Game 4, I have remained alcohol-free. Including through the off-day. Including through all of NLDS Game 5.

And it worked.

I also wore the same "World Series LA" hat (from 2017) which brought the Dodgers luck in Game 4. Same Dodgers socks as in Game 4, as well. And I wore a different Dodgers t-shirt during most of the game. After the seventh inning, with the score tied 1-1, I wanted to switch to the "World Series Champs" t-shirt (also what I wore Game 4), but Ms. Sax, sitting beside me on the sofa, warned me it was too early. So I waited. Then in the ninth inning, she signalled for the t-shirt change from the bullpen. And THAT move worked, too!

Crazy.

So here we go, on to the NLCS with Game 1 in Atlanta. I'll be poised and ready, as I'm sure the Dodgers will be as well. But I won't have drink in hand!

GO DODGERS!

2 comments:

QuadSevens said...

Your sacrifice did not go unnoticed by the Baseball Gods. Nice job to the Mrs. on making the t-shirt change call too!

KLD said...

Glad to know I'm not the only one who feels a bit of superstition when watching games. I've been wearing the same unwashed boxers all year. ☺☻☺