The argument for the Dodgers? They’re the defending World Series champions and are positively loaded with star power!
The Giants? They held off L.A. and won the division!
Whichever side you’re on, though, we’re about to find out the answer — at least as far as 2021 is concerned — as the two National League West powerhouses meet up in the NL Division Series after the Dodgers beat the Cardinals in a walk-off on Wednesday night. As we get set for a series that will leave the victor as the favorite to win the pennant, ESPN baseball experts Alden Gonzalez and Tim Keown break down what this matchup means and what each team needs to do to win — and give their picks for who will come out on top.
A 107-win team vs. a 106-win team — is this the most epic NLDS matchup ever?
Gonzalez: Put it this way: I can’t imagine how there could possibly be a better one. Start with the fact that this is one of the most historic rivalries in baseball history, featuring two teams that had previously never faced off in the postseason, then think about how it all ended — with the Dodgers surging down the stretch, fighting fervently to chase down their ninth consecutive division title, and the Giants refusing to cede. The Dodgers went 43-13 after the start of August, yet they made up only two games on the Giants. Wild.
Keown: This question is too limiting. Purely from a record standpoint, this would be the most epic World Series matchup ever in the 162-game era. Two teams have never exceeded 105 wins in the same season — ever — which is a testament to the talents of these two teams and the futility of many others. Add in the divisional rivalry and the tight matchups this season (10-9 Giants) and the only problem with this series is that we don’t get to see it play out over seven
The dramatic walk-off win as a crowd of 53,193 roared its approval sent the Dodgers into the best-of-five NL division series against the NL West rival San Francisco Giants beginning Friday night at Oracle Park. Here are four takeaways from Wednesday night’s game:
Oh, what a relief
The Giants have one of baseball’s best and deepest relief corps, but the Dodgers showed Wednesday night that they should be able to match them pitch for pitch in a battle of bullpens.
Kelly replaced Scherzer with two on and one out in the fifth inning and retired Nolan Arenado on a fielder’s-choice grounder and struck out Dylan Carlson with a nasty 88-mph curve. Graterol hit one batter in a scoreless sixth.
Treinen gave up one hit and struck out one in 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Knebel, who missed almost four months of the season because of a right-lat strain and hadn’t pitched in many high-leverage situations in September, struck out Harrison Bader with a sharp 81-mph curve to end the eighth with a runner on.
Jansen, who went 4-4 with a 2.22 ERA and 38 saves in 69 regular-season games, then struck out three of the four batters he faced in the ninth, blowing a 94-mph cut-fastball by Tyler O’Neill with a runner on second to end the inning.
“They have been our backbone all year long,” third baseman Justin Turner said of the Dodgers bullpen. “For them to go out and give us four-plus shutout innings and give the offense a chance to come up and take a big swing, you can’t say enough about those guys.”