The Giants and Dodgers spent the first two games of their historic Division Series reminding everyone just how evenly matched they are.
It’s not a matter of playing close games. The Dodgers tied the series at a game apiece with their 9-2 victory Saturday, one day after the Giants opened the first official postseason showdown between the arch-rivals with a 4-0 triumph.
What re-emerged was that certain patterns will remain as plain as the chalk lines. The Dodgers, winners of 106 regular-season games, excelled in Game 2 with the basics: Wall-to-wall pitching, defense that was as effective as it was flashy and timely swarms of offense.
This fit the description of the 107-game-winning Giants in Game 1. It’s almost as if excellence were a tangible commodity to be exchanged.
Some observers feel the same way about home-field advantage, that it automatically shifts to the inhabitants of the game site. If any team can defy this, it’s the Giants. They finished the season with a remarkable 53-28 (.654) road record, which stands up nicely against the Dodgers’ 58-23 home mark. By the way, the Giants finished 6-4 at Dodger Stadium this year. They shouldn’t feel at all intimidated when the series resumes Monday night with Game 3.
Baseball’s mental side, though, is an always critical variable. In this aspect of their Game 2 performance, the Giants struggled.
There was Wilmer Flores getting thrown out at third base by Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts to blunt a promising sixth-inning rally.
“I think if Wilmer was sitting here, he would tell you that it’s really difficult to make an out like that on the bases and take that sort of risk and when you have a little bit of momentum,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said.
When Flores commanded the hot seat, he spoke exactly as Kapler said he might.
“Yeah, 100 percent,” said Flores, who acknowledged neglecting to check third-base coach Ron Wotus’ “stop” signal. “I just thought that the ball was more in the corner.”
There was Kapler allowing starting pitcher Kevin Gausman to bat for himself in the fifth inning instead of replacing him with a pinch-hitter who might have been able to generate more offense. Gausman remained in the game only briefly, as the Dodgers initiated their four-run uprising against him inthe sixth inning.
“I think that’s probably the biggest decision point in the game, from my perspective,” said Kapler, who acknowledged that the right-hander had begun to pitch better and deserved to remain on the mound. “We felt really good about Gausman getting the next three hitters out,” Kapler added. “Obviously, sometimes that works out and sometimes it doesn’t and tonight it didn’t.”
There was being victimized by Cody Bellinger, who has been mired in a season-long slump yet managed to contribute a two-run double in the sixth.
“I think I’m sure he has acknowledged that (he hasn’t been at his best),” Kapler said. “At the same time, he’s incredibly talented and fit as an athlete and you know that he’s always dangerous.”
And so the Giants-Dodgers rivalry continues, with layers being added to it with each game.
“It is a heated battle, but … it’s also a lot of fun,” Betts said. “I mean, it kind of reminds me of the Red Sox and Yankees, kind of similar to that, but only in the National League. I’m just thankful to be a part of it.”
Chris Haft is a longtime baseball scribe who cover the Giants for The Examiner.