The 2021 San Francisco Giants have made a mockery of the word magic. They somehow shave the first two letters off of “abnormal” like it’s a part-time job. Whether it’s an unlikely hero, a dazzling defensive effort, or a life-saving wind surge, the Giants figure it out. The Giants built a laundry list of ways to win during the regular season, 107 to be exact. On Monday night at Chavez Ravine, the Giants, once again, defied national expectations of their luck running out by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLDS, 1-0. The game (and perhaps series) was up for grabs. As it unfolded, neither side budged. Doubt crept into both fanbases as the night wore on. But even when signs pointed towards a letdown, the Giants did not disappoint. They haven’t all season, why should the playoffs be any different?
Looking at the box score, the game was nearly even. If anything, Los Angeles had the edge on paper. The Giants used four pitchers; the Dodgers used three. SF struck out 14 times to LA’s six. The Giants mustered three hits to the Dodgers five. Both teams failed to get a hit with a runner in scoring position. Yet, on a night when no ball seemingly could leave the yard, Evan Longoria challenged the conditions and won. The swirling wind at Dodger Stadium played ping pong with every fly ball, but one. Longoria’s 409-foot home run was not only improbable because of the weather, but also because of the situation. Longoria was 0-for-his previous-24. Also, Max Scherzer, in his 14-year Hall of Fame career, had allowed just ten home runs in an 0-2 count. Still, Longoria lifted a center-cut fastball into the left-center field bleachers and that run was the difference.
However, no one-run victory is complete without a dominant pitching performance and spotless defense. The Giants delivered both. Starting pitcher Alex Wood cemented his “stopper” status by firing 4.2 innings of shutout baseball. The Giants have now gone 13-1 after a loss this season with Wood toeing the slab. He set the tone for what was a stingy night from the staff. After retiring six-straight to open the game, Wood stranded a runner on third base in the third inning and left two more on in the fourth. As Wood picked up the Giants in a pivotal game, the bullpen followed suit. Taylor Rogers got the final out of the fifth to end the threat and bridge the middle innings. When Rogers ran into trouble in the seventh, giving up back-to-back hits with one out, Jake McGee slammed the door with some assistance.
After striking out Austin Barnes, McGee needed to get through Mookie Betts with the tying-run standing on second base. Arguably the toughest out in baseball, Betts owns a career. 972 OPS with runners in scoring position. The Giants needed a lift and got one, literally. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Betts predictably smoked a 100-mph liner towards left field. The first thought was a play at the plate. The first thought from Brandon Crawford’s was, “just catch the ball.” So, Air Crawford leapt and snagged the newly dented baseball at the apex of his jump. It was the type of postseason moment that defines a game 1-0 game more than the lone run. It was the type of moment Crawford has made a career out of seizing. At 34-years young, Brandon still has bounce.
With the crisis averted, the Giants turned to 24-year-old relief sensation Camilo Doval for the final two innings. The flame thrower made mincemeat of a dangerous Dodgers lineup for the second time in the series, retiring the final six batters and extending his scoreless innings streak to 19.1. The only scare was the last out of the game when pinch-hitter Gavin Lux barreled a ball towards the left-center field bleachers. Whether it was the conditions or the baseball gods at work, the same wind that Longoria beat four innings prior sent Lux’s back to the warning track where Steven Duggar secured it. Lux couldn’t believe it. But if you have been watching the Giants with any regularity this season, it wasn’t hard to fathom. It was San Francisco’s 32nd one-run victory of the season. This is what they do.