The Giants showed their true might against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday night, turning in a dominant performance to win 4-0 in the National League Division Series opener.
They pitched a little better than usual, with Logan Webb turning in a stellar performance, working 7-2/3 innings to cement his place as the staff ace. Their defense sparkled a little more than usual, as shortstop Brandon Crawford and Tommy LaStella led a slick-fielding effort. And they coped with Dodgers ace Walker Buehler more effectively than usual, sparked by home runs from Buster Posey and Kris Bryant. Crawford added an eighth-inning round-tripper off reliever Alex Vesia.
But the story of the night was Webb, who pitched masterfully.
“A lot of swings and misses tonight. He’s nasty,” said Crawford, after the game. “I’m glad he was seen nationally.”
This is what championship teams do. They elevate their performance as much as necessary. Having finished the regular season one game ahead of the Dodgers, 107 wins to 106, San Francisco simply unleashed its excellence upon Los Angeles.
It’s difficult to pitch better than Webb did in his first career postseason start. He struck out 10, walked none and allowed three Dodgers to stray into scoring position. He remained in complete command, as demonstrated by the 64 strikes he threw in just 92 pitches, overall. Webb provided a reminder that the Giants ranked second in the Major Leagues with a 3.24 this year (Los Angeles led this category with a 3.01 figure).
“I feel like the game plan never changed,” Webb said. “It’s just attack the guys. They don’t chase.”
Webb muzzled the Dodgers so completely that he seldom needed defensive help. Posey likened Webb’s performance to Tim Lincecum’s two-hit, 14-strikeout effort in the 2010 Division Series opener against Atlanta.
“I just think, to be quite honest, we didn’t make adjustments,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
When called upon, Webb’s infield responded. This was particularly the case in the fourth inning, when LaStella ranged up the middle to snare Justin Turner’s grounder with Corey Seager on first base and one out. LaStella grabbed the ball and shoveled it to Crawford, timing the relay perfectly. It arrived just as Crawford reached the bag, which started an inning-ending double play.
“That was pretty sick. That was awesome,” Webb said.
“Definitely a nice SportsCenter Top 10 play, I think,” Bryant said.
Though LaStella collaborated on the play, he gave all credit to Crawford. “He made that play,” LaStella said. “That’s a really difficult read on his part to go for the ball and then redirect his momentum to find the base on a high flip and then still turn it.”
Great players do great things at great times. Posey has validated that belief on numerous occasions. Two outs after LaStella ignited the offense with a leadoff walk in the Giants’ half of the first inning, Posey drove Buehler’s 3-0 delivery onto the right-field arcade.
“(Buehler) doesn’t give you a whole lot to hit sometimes,” Posey said. “Fortunately there, I got a pitch I could handle and got the barrel of the bat on it,” Posey said. Jokingly, he added, “The dang column (one of three that belches mist after a Giants homer) kept me from getting a splash hit.”
Nothing tempered the enthusiasm of the crowd of 41,934, which filled Oracle Park and kept it rocking.
Bryant said that the atmosphere “was great, as I expected. Our fans have been great all year, and tonight was another level, too, with the (rally) towels going everywhere (and) black T-shirts everywhere … I think they’re ready to go and ready to let out some of whatever was pent up from not even being able to come to the field last year. So it was nice to see them out there. We’re going to need them the rest of the way. They were the 10th man tonight. That was huge for us.”
Giants fans couldn’t agree more.
Stay tuned to www.sfexaminer.com for updated analysis throughout the NLDS.
Chris Haft is a longtime baseball scribe who covers the San Francisco Giants for The Examiner.