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Friday, March 31, 2023

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Dodgers advance to the NLCS after defeating the Giants 2-1 in a playoff thriller

After delivering the biggest hit of the season for the defending World Series champions, Cody Bellinger pointed to the dugout and pounded his chest in triumph.

Of course, it took until the ninth inning of the final game to separate the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.

They couldn’t have been more than a few feet apart.

Bellinger hit a game-tying single in the ninth inning, and prized midseason acquisition Max Scherzer came out of the bullpen for his first career save, propelling the Dodgers to a 2-1 victory over the Giants in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday night and into the NL Championship Series.

A thrilling Division Series between the top two teams in baseball with a combined 213 regular-season wins was decided by Bellinger’s line drive up the middle, adding a new chapter to this storied, century-old rivalry.

“We poured everything we had into this series, and it took everything we had to beat these guys,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

With a runner aboard, Scherzer fanned Wilmer Flores on a check-swing for the game’s final out. First base umpire Gabe Morales checked with plate umpire Doug Eddings, who ruled Flores swung. However, based on television replays, he appeared to hold up.

“It was a swing because the umpire said it was a swing,” Bellinger explained.

The Dodgers stormed out of their dugout to celebrate on the Giants’ home turf. In disgust, fans began throwing beer cans and debris onto the diamond.

“Extremely tough. “Obviously, you don’t want a game to end like that,” said San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler. “There’s no reason to be upset about it. I just think it’s a letdown of a conclusion.

There were other reasons why we didn’t win today’s baseball game, so that was just the final call.”

Check-swings are one of the most difficult calls for umpires, according to Morales.

“When I’m watching it live, I don’t have the benefit of multiple camera angles,” Morales explained. “I thought he went when it happened live, so I called it a swing.”

Mookie Betts had a postseason career-high four hits and will lead the Dodgers’ title defense in Game 1 of the best-of-seven NLCS on Saturday night in Atlanta. “That’s the plan,” Roberts says of Scherzer’s readiness to start.

Dodgers advance to the NLCS after defeating the Giants 2-1
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Last year, the Dodgers rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Braves in the NLCS, winning Game 7 by a 4-3 score on their way to their first championship since 1988.

“It’ll be another great one.” “It won’t be easy,” Bellinger predicted. “We’ve played each other a few times in recent years.” So we have a good idea of what each other has and are looking forward to it.”

With one out in the ninth, Camilo Doval struck out Justin Turner, and Gavin Lux singled before Bellinger delivered his most important hit of the season.

Prior to that single, he had a 5 for 62 (.080) batting average against the Giants in 2021.

“You really want to be in that moment,” said Bellinger.

Scherzer, who was acquired from Washington at the July 30 trade deadline, lost his Game 3 start 1-0.

On two days’ rest, he pitched a hitless ninth inning to close out a best-of-five series that will go down as one of the classics these teams have played, right up there with the three-game tiebreakers won by the Giants to win the NL pennant in 1951 and 1962.

“That was insane. “That’s insane,” Scherzer exclaimed. “So to be in that situation, with everything on the line, with the way we’ve been playing this series, to get the ball in that situation, man, that was a rush.”

Since saves became an official stat in 1969, the 37-year-old right-hander is the oldest pitcher to save a winner-take-all game.

It was only fitting that the final meeting between these two evenly matched rivals, who knew everything about each other by this point, ended at 12 apiece.

On the final day, the 107-win Giants edged the Dodgers for the NL West title, with Los Angeles finishing a game back with 106 wins.

Both teams entered this game with a total of 109 victories, including the playoffs.

“Best record in baseball,” Roberts said, “and it was just great every time we played those guys, just bringing that rivalry back to life, really playing for relevance.”

The Dodgers have already won when facing elimination, defeating the Cardinals 3-1 in the wild-card game last week. And Roberts’ audacious Game 5 wager paid off: Julio Uras, the 20-game winner, pitched out of the bullpen instead of starting as planned.

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Uras entered in the third inning and struck out five batters in four innings of relief for LA.

“I think you can’t do a job because you’re afraid of failure or potential criticism,” Roberts said before the game. “I believe you must do your job in whatever way you believe is the best way to win the game.”

Betts had the Dodgers’ first three hits, all singles, before Corey Seager’s RBI double in the sixth, as the Dodgers finally got to Game 1 winner Logan Webb.

“He’s one of baseball’s best players for a reason,” Webb said.

After going 0 for 9, Darin Ruf’s first hit of the series was a tying home run in the bottom half. The 452-foot drive was the longest of the playoffs so far.

Webb was done after seven more brilliant innings, allowing one run on four hits, striking out seven and walking one as a sellout crowd of 42,275 applauded with swirling orange rally towels and deafening “Beat LA!” chants.

The 24-year-old right-hander and two relievers blanked the Dodgers 4-0 here last Friday, and Webb’s Sierra Elementary School in Rocklin to the north held a day in his honor this week.

Right-handed reliever Corey Knebel started for the Dodgers and gave up a two-out double to Buster Posey in the first, then pumped his fist and struck out Brandon Crawford in a seven-pitch at-bat.

This time, the Dodgers made all of the adjustments and winning moves.

“Sometimes there are things that you just can’t explain. “It’s like that ‘it’ thing,” Betts explained. “I think we’ve got it.”

AP News

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