The Dodgers win the series! The Dodgers win the series! The Dodgers win the series! The Dodgers win the series!
There’s a new radio call in town. There’s a new ruler of an ancient rivalry. There’s a new answer to the endless bellowing Bay Area chants of “Beat L.A … Beat L.A.”
Take that, Bobby Thomson’s shot. Take that, Juan Marichal’s bat. Take that, Joe Morgan’s homer and Will Clark’s laugh and Barry Bonds’ pirouette.
On a harried, howling Thursday night at Oracle Park, with orange towels flapping in their faces and desperate jeers grabbing at their ankles, the Dodgers crushed memories and settled scores to win the greatest grudge match in franchise history.
In arguably the biggest game in the two teams’ 131 years of competition, the Dodgers not only beat the San Francisco Giants, but finished them, ended them, and climbed over them on their way to deep October.
In the first postseason duel in the team’s 2,540 games of competitive history, in the fifth and deciding game of the National League Division Series, the Dodgers sliced and slashed their way to a ninth-inning run to capture a 2-1 victory and series win.
Welcome to the rivalry history, Cody Bellinger’s last-gasp slashing single to right field with one out in the ninth. It scored Justin Turner with the eventual winning run. Bellinger pointed to the Dodgers’ dugout all the way to first base. He knew, and they knew.
“I said it before … keep having faith in myself … keep staying in the moment,” said Bellinger. “We continue to grind it out.”
Welcome to the rivalry history, also, to starter Max Scherzer, who took the mound in the bottom of the ninth in relief and survived the Giants, ending the game on a controversial strikeout of Wilmer Flores with Kris Bryant on first base and bringing the Dodgers dancing out of their dugout.
Replays show that Flores clearly checked his swing on an 0-and-2 pitch, but first base umpire Gabe Morales saw otherwise, called him out, and ended the tumultuous series in turmoil.
“That’s Scherzer being Scherzer, man,” said Bellinger. “He’s a gamer. He’s a competitor.”
The Giants fans who had been so loud and harrowing all night were cursing and gesturing as they filed out of the building. Meanwhile, several hundred Dodgers fans stayed, gathering behind the Dodgers’ dugout to serenade their champagne-swilling heroes when they emerged to take a bow.
“Moo-kie, Moo-kie,” they cried to Mookie Betts, who had four hits and scored a run.
“MVP, MVP,” they shouted at the shirtless Scherzer, who recorded the first save of his 14-year career.
“Ju-lio, Ju-lio,” they cheered the starting pitcher Julio Urias, who didn’t actually start but pitched four strong innings anyway.
The Dodgers were elated, energized, and completely exhausted.
“We poured everything we had into this series and it took everything we had to beat these guys,” said manager Dave Roberts.
The Giants, despite finishing the season with 107 wins and the best record in baseball, are done, but not without earning the ultimate respect from their biggest rivals.
“That was an unbelievable team,” said Bellinger of the Giants. “This was an unbelievable win.”
The Dodgers, meanwhile, advance to the National League Championship Series for the fifth time in six years, and for the second consecutive time against the Atlanta Braves, in a best-of-seven duel starting Saturday in Atlanta.
“This is just step one toward our final goal,” said Betts.
Last fall the Braves led the Dodgers three games to one in the NLCS before the Dodgers won three straight games to propel them to a World Series that they eventually won.
This year, the Braves don’t seem equipped to offer a similar challenge, as they finished the regular season with 18 fewer wins while scoring 135 fewer runs. The Braves will be without their most exciting player, the injured Ronald Acuna Jr., and could be missing one of his power-hitting replacements, the COVID-sidelined Jorge Soler.
The Braves will have home-field advantage because they won the National League East while the Dodgers were the wild-card team, but the Dodgers should be able to win it by the time they finish the three games at Dodger Stadium.
If the Dodgers can win the NLCS and advance to their fourth World Series in five years, waiting for them will be either the Houston Astros or the Boston Red Sox.
Considering the Astros cheated the Dodgers out of a World Series title in 2017, facing them would be sweet.
But, seriously, can anything be as sweet as what just happened?
Before the game, the retired Vin Scully tweeted from the mountaintop.
“To my knowledge, tonight’s game between the @Dodgers and @SFGiants is the most important game in the history of their rivalry. With nearly identical records, and so much at
stake, I believe this to be the case.”
Roberts was read the tweet and shook his head and smiled.
“Now I feel pressure,” he said. “Gosh darn it, Vin!”
You got it right, Vin.
It only figured that the final battle of the taut five-game series would stretch to the final innings and final out.
First, in the top of the ninth against kid Giants reliever Camilo Doval, Justin Turner took first when he was plunked in the back, then five pitches later Gavin Lux chopped a single to right.
Then Bellinger, who had the statistically worst hitting season of any former MVP in history, continued his October resurgence by fighting off a pitch and driving it into history.
“I literally tried to stay simple,” Bellinger said. “You don’t think about being that guy, but when you’re in the moment … you try to stay within yourself.”
Then came the bottom of the ninth, when Bryant reached first when third baseman Turner booted a grounder. But Scherzer held strong, striking out Lamonte Wade Jr. and Flores, albeit controversially.
“They’re a great team … the fight they had … it came down to the last pitch,” said Scherzer.
It was truly a blast, even as both teams battled with silenced bats.
They dueled to a scoreless draw for the first five innings, the Dodgers unable to fluster prodigy Logan Webb while the Giants struggled against the Dodgers’ unique lineup of relievers Corey Knebel and Brusdar Graterol followed by usual starterUrias.
Things finally broke open in the sixth when the Dodgers struck first with what can best be described as Mookie Ball.
Betts, who had singled to left in his previous two at-bats, singled to left again with one out. On the next pitch, he stole second. Two pitches later, Corey Seager chopped a double to left to score him. Seager was stranded on second by a Trea Turner strikeout and Will Smith flyout, but it seemed as if the Dodgers had the momentum.
Not for long.
Leading off the bottom of the sixth, Darin Ruf blasted a full-count fastball from Urias over the center-field fence to tie the score.
It was the last run the Giants would score this season. The Dodgers would score one more. The chants of “Beat L.A.” were silenced. The Dodgers roared.