From the Bleachers: Win or Go Home
Baily Deeter ’22 weighs in on the playoff series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in the latest installment of “From the Bleachers.”
In 1951, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers played a best-of-three series to determine the winner of the National League pennant. In the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3, New York’s Bobby Thomson hit what will forever be known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” a three-run home run to give the Giants a miraculous 5-4 victory.
Seventy years later, on the other side of the country, the two franchises meet again in a winner-take-all game of similar proportions. The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers have been the two best teams in baseball all season long, with the Giants shockingly finishing 107-55 in the regular season and the Dodgers, albeit unsurprisingly, finishing 106-56. The two will meet tonight in Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series to determine who moves on to the National League Championship Series, meaning that one of baseball’s two best teams will go home in the first round.
We don’t give Major League Baseball enough credit in “From the Bleachers,” mainly because my seven fantasy football teams and multitude of pickup basketball engagements dominate my headspace. However, back in my elementary and middle school days, I used to spend three hours a day, 162 days a year, watching nine-inning baseball games. I would probably be much more socially advanced if I had spent that time hanging out with friends. Instead, I found myself as a 100-pound high school freshman trying to mimic Tim Lincecum’s long hair and Brian Wilson’s beard (still no luck on that last one). I’m still trying to make up for the lost time.
And yet, seven years later, I coincidentally find myself rediscovering my passion for America’s pastime at the same time that my favorite team is poised for a deep playoff run.
Fortunately, there’s no better time to hop on the Giants and baseball bandwagon. From top to bottom, the 2021 MLB season was truly a spectacular one. We saw a whopping 13 no-hitters, a phenom by the name of Shohei Ohtani hit 46 home runs while finishing 9-2 as a pitcher and playoff races for the ages that came down to the last game of the season. The most notable race, of course, was between the Giants and Dodgers, with both teams fighting during the last two weeks of the season to avoid the dreaded one-game Wild Card playoff.
San Francisco won the race on the season’s final day, only after winning eight of their final nine games. Despite winning their final seven games, the Dodgers saw their season come down to a single Wild Card game against the Cardinals. As hilarious as it would have been if the Dodgers had lost that early in the playoffs after a 106-56 season, it was only fair that the Dodgers edged the Cardinals on a walk-off home run and advanced to face their bitter rivals.
The Giants took their fans on a magical ride from 2010 to 2014, winning three World Series championships despite never being the best (or even one of the best) teams in the regular season. During their run, they won a World Series Game 7 by the skin of their teeth, hit a walk-off home run to advance to the World Series and won six consecutive playoff elimination games during their journey.
And yet, a few weeks ago, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt claimed that a postseason series against the Dodgers would be “the most intense postseason series [he’s] ever been a part of.”
Belt may have jinxed himself with that comment, as he sprained his finger before the playoffs and has missed the entire series. But he was spot on. The Dodgers and Giants have had one of the greatest rivalries in sports history during their 131-year run, with hundreds of iconic moments like Thomson’s home run.
The rivalry element has added to the high tensions between the teams, and it has been a back-and-forth series. The Giants have sorely missed their best hitter, only scoring nine runs through the first four games of the series. Fortunately, due to masterful pitching from Logan Webb and Alex Wood in Game 1 and Game 3, leading to two shutouts, they find themselves with a chance to advance.
However, with the exception of a few notable home runs and defensive plays, the series has been rather uneventful. Why do I have a feeling that will change in Game 5?
The Astros, Red Sox and Braves have already advanced to the next round, and all three have a legitimate shot at winning it all. But you can’t help but think that the two best teams in baseball will be taking the field at Oracle Park Thursday night, with the one that escapes finding itself in the best position of them all to hoist the World Series trophy at the end of the month.
For the first time in recent memory, the season’s most crucial game may occur in the NLDS. Belt wasn’t kidding — for all Giants fans like myself have seen in the past 12 years, their most iconic moments have come against the likes of the Kansas City Royals and the Cincinnati Reds. This is the Giants and the Dodgers, a rivalry just as old as the beautiful game itself. Fairness aside, the season has shaped up just the way it should have: nine innings to determine a victor.
We’ve never seen anything like what we’re about to see tonight.