The arch-rival San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers will play Game 5 of the best-of-five NLDS on Thursday night at Oracle Park in San Francisco. We found out as much in an action-packed 7-2 Dodgers victory Tuesday night in Game 4 in Dodger Stadium.
The series has now alternated wins, setting up a winner-take-all matchup.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways and moments from Game 4.
Betts delivers big blow for active Dodgers offense
The Dodgers had the Giants on the ropes several times early in the game. They left a runner on base in the first and two in the second. Then came the third inning. With one out, Will Smith, Justin Turner and Gavin Lux drew walks to load the bases. After a Cody Bellinger grounder resulted in an out at home plate, Chris Taylor ran the count to 3-2. The runners broke on the pitch and ...
We've discussed the excellent defense both teams play throughout the series and this was just another example, courtesy of Giants left fielder LaMonte Wade Jr.
Still, perhaps the bigger takeaway was the Dodgers had left six runners on base through three innings. Sure, they were winning, 2-0, but it felt like the lead should have been bigger, right?
Fortunately for the Dodgers, pitcher Walker Buehler led off next inning by hitting a soft grounder at Giants reliever Jarlin García and García flubbed it. That opened the door for Mookie Betts.
Finally, the Dodgers had breathing room. Some. Not a ton.
The funny thing is, the opportunities for much bigger innings continued. In the bottom of the fifth, Betts sent a warning track fly with the bases loaded that ended up a mere sac fly. Then Corey Seager also flew out deep to end the inning. Two more runners were left on the sixth.
In all, the Dodgers left 11 runners on base through seven innings.
Of course, we could probably spin this as a positive for the Dodgers as well. They had traffic all game. They had 12 hits and five walks compared to the seven hits and two walks by the Giants.
Buehler threw well on short rest
Buehler started Game 1 of the series, so he was going on only three days' rest. This was the first time in his major-league career he did so. Through four scoreless innings on 60 pitches, he allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out four. He went back out for the fifth inning and it went single, lineout, walk before he was removed. One of his runners would score, so his final official line: 4 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.
That's a strong effort against a very good offensive team that just had a look at him a few days ago. Buehler didn't have an overly sexy line, but he put his team in position to win.
Also, Buehler now has a 1.25 ERA in 21 2/3 innings in his career in elimination games (via MLB Stats).
Dodgers strike early... and late
We mentioned the missed opportunities in the first three innings to break the game wide open, but the Dodgers still got on the board early. And after getting shutout in Game 3, they were surely thirsty to strike early in this one.
After a hard-hit Mookie Betts lineout in the first, Seager singled and then Trea Turner doubled him home.
In the second inning, Lux and Bellinger singled before Taylor hit a deep sac fly to make it 2-0. After a two-out, Betts infield hit -- credit Brandon Crawford with a heck of a play to knock the ball down and prevent Bellinger from scoring -- the Giants removed starter Anthony DeSclafani.
To get into the Giants' bullpen so early was a big win for the Dodgers, even leaving the scoreboard aside. Also, this cushion meant those missed opportunities referenced above didn't feel quite as deflating.
After all those missed opportunities earlier in the game, the Dodgers tacked on two runs in the bottom of the eighth that finally felt like they put the game away. The Giants were able to scratch across a run in the top of the eighth to make it 5-2. That's certainly workable, especially with this Giants team. After a Seager single and an out in the bottom half, though, Will Smith homered.
It was all elementary after that.
It all comes down to Game 5
The stage is set. For the first time in history, two teams won at least 106 games in the same season and both were in the same division. The Dodgers and the Giants had never faced off in an actual postseason series. It was the matchup many of us were most excited to see this postseason. They will now play Thursday evening in San Francisco's Oracle Park. One team will advance to face the Braves in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series. The other will go home early. Yes, early. Both teams earned the right to go deeper into October, but geography and league landscape conspired against them. Still, a true champion wins every series in front of them, no matter the circumstance, right?
The Giants send Logan Webb to the hill. He dominated in Game 1 of this series, allowing just five hits in 7 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out 10 without walking anyone. This came after a breakout season in which he looked the part of an ace.
The Dodgers counter with Julio Urías. He got the win after five strong innings in Game 2 of the series and, well, that's what he does. He was 20-3 this season with a 2.96 ERA.
Are you ready?