A night after they whimpered, they wailed.
A game after being blown to the brink of elimination, they gusted and swirled and whipped.
C’mon, you really thought the Dodgers were going away quietly? You really thought baseball’s resilient defending champions were just going to lay down and let those maddening San Francisco Giants celebrate in their backyard?
After waiting 131 years to meet their ancient rivals in a playoff series, the Dodgers were going to make damn sure this one went the distance.
Needing a win, the Dodgers delivered a whopper, defeating the Giants 7-2 Tuesday at Dodger Stadium to even the five-game National League Division Series at two games apiece and send it to decisive Game 5 on Thursday night at San Francisco’s Oracle Park.
You read that right. A decisive Game 5. A span of three centuries boiled down to one night, one winner, one loser, one with eternal bragging rights, one in historical despair.
The Dodgers and Giants have played 2,539 games in their long history, yet none like that one that comes next.
“This is what baseball wants,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “If you have a pulse or are a sports fan, you better be watching Dodgers-Giants.”
It will be a fitting finale to a fiery weeklong duel, the Giants with 107 regular-season wins, the Dodgers with 106 regular-season wins, both with two playoff wins against each other, both with 109 wins total, both needing one more.
“I’m sure it will be a lively atmosphere,” said Giants manager Gabe Kapler in the biggest understatement in the last 131 years.
The Dodgers will throw their best young starter Julio Urías. He won the second game of this series.
The Giants will throw their best young starter Logan Webb. He won the first.
“They know us, we know them really well,” said the Dodgers’ Will Smith. “It’s just going to come down to who wants it a little more”
VIDEO | 03:39
Walker Buehler, Mookie Betts and Dave Roberts talk about Game 4 win
Los Angeles Dodgers players Walker Buehler, Mookie Betts, Gavin Lux and manager Dave Roberts discuss the Dodgers’ win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of the NLDS.
The stakes in this rivalry have never been bigger, and the drama of its narrative has never been richer, all of which explain why the Dodgers could hardly be more desperate Tuesday, jumping on the Giants almost from the minute they stepped into Chavez Ravine.
A run in the first. A run in the second. Two more in the fourth. Another in the fifth. Two more in the eighth. A dozen hits. Two homers. Two doubles.
The Dodgers ran through eight Giants pitchers like it was a spring training game. The fans caught the buzz and screamed like it was the World Series.
“Giants suck … Giants suck … Giants suck.”
“Mooookie … Mooookie … Mookie.”
“C.T. 3 … C.T. 3 … C.T. 3.’’
You’ve could have almost seen the quick Dodgers surge and Giants stifling coming. You needed to look only at the starting pitchers.
The stadium rocked. The Dodgers rolled. Mookie Betts went deep. Smith went deep.
And Walker Buehler went deep enough, pitching brilliantly even though he was starting on only three days’ rest for the first time in his career, one of baseball’s best big-game pitchers once again embracing one of its biggest stages.
“Elimination game,” Buehler said. “I wanted the ball.”
Huge game. He dominated the ball. Buehler fought through 71 pitches across 41/3 innings, allowing just three hits and a run before leaving to a standing ovation and the awe of his teammates.
The Giants, meanwhile, sent out Anthony DeSclafani, who faced the Dodgers more than any other team this season, and he had been awful, in six starts going 0-3 with a 7.33 ERA.
Yep. He was awful again. He lasted 12/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits before some of the fans had even found their seats.
Face it, you knew the Dodgers were going to pound DeSclafani. And you knew Buehler was going to pound them back.
And if you’ve been paying attention the last several years, you just knew the Dodgers would figure out a way to send this sprinting for one last clash on the Bay.
After all, the Dodgers have fought through baseball’s cancel culture before, and more than once. They won an elimination game last week against the St. Louis Cardinals. They won three consecutive elimination games last October against the Atlanta Braves. They won an elimination game three years ago against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“These elimination things, we’ve learned it about ourselves a lot against Atlanta last year that we could do things like that,” Buehler said.
Do things like, two more hits from the lost Gavin Lux, two more hits from the rediscovered Cody Bellinger, good swings from all over a lineup that seemingly can’t wait for Thursday night.
“I just know when our backs are against the wall, we have a guy named Walker Buehler who can get us out of it,” said Betts. “Now Julio has to bring us home.”
For the Dodgers, home would be advancing to the National League Championship Series, home is deep in the playoffs, always deep in the playoffs.
For the surprising Giants, home might have just been making the playoffs, who knows?
“There’s teams that operate out of, ‘We want to get here,’ and there’s teams that it’s disappointing if we don’t get there, and I think we’re one of those teams that it’s disappointing if we don’t get there,” Buehler said. “I think you sense that in there and you find a way to do little things that you might not do in the regular season. You find a way to impact a game.”
The Dodgers have been here many times before, and on Tuesday night it showed.
Many of the young Giants have not, and that also showed.
“The playoffs are all about momentum,” Buehler said. “A win like this for us, especially in the fashion we did, is huge for us going into the next two days.”
The two days will lead to one game that will mean only everything. Thank you, baseball, for this wonderful madness that is the Dodgers and Giants.