Thursday, October 14, 2021

MLB Playoffs, Days Six and Seven

As we've previously noted, on Tuesday the Astros closed out the ChiSox and the Braves closed out the Brewers.  But the Giants could not close out the Dodgers -- L.A. rolled to a 7-2 win and knotted the series at two games apiece.

So we all took Wednesday off, and the Giants/Dodgers series will be decided tonight.  This should be one of the most dramatic games in recent baseball history.  Consider the following facts:

1.  The Giants/Dodgers rivalry is one of the most storied in baseball history and this is the first time they've met in the post-season since 1962.

2.  During the regular season, the Giants won 107 games and the Dodgers won 106.

3.  The Giants and the Dodgers have met 23 times so far this year.  The Giants have won 12 of those games, and the Dodgers have won 11.  That one-game difference is the only reason that the Giants, and not the Dodgers, won the NL West this year.

4.  The Giants and Dodgers had an extraordinary pennant race all year that wasn't decided until the last day of the regular season.  Then the Dodgers had to survive a one-game playoff with the red-hot Cardinals just to get this far.

5.  Whoever wins tonight will be heavily favored to beat the Braves in the next round.  In fact, there's a decent chance that the MLB champion will effectively be decided tonight.

Now imagine that the 49ers went 15-1 and the Rams went 14-2.   Or imagine that the Warriors won 70 games and the Lakers won 69.  Or imagine that Stanford was number one in the country, and Southern Cal was number two.  Can you imagine the sort of hype that any of those match-ups would receive if they came down to a one-game shot to see who reaches the semi-final?  It would be off the charts.  For most sports fans, that match-up -- in whatever sport -- would be must-see television.

But not for MLB.  The owners of MLB, and their hand-picked Commissioner, apparently operate under the assumption that most people just don't like baseball very much, and don't really care who wins the World Series.  They have ceded ESPN to the other leagues, and put their playoffs on TBS and Fox Sports One.  They air games at odd times, making them impossible for most people to watch on the East Coast -- even if they knew where to find the game.  (I'm sure that tonight, there will be people who want to watch the Dodgers and the Giants, who will try Fox and the various ESPN networks, who may even think to try Fox Sports One or NBC Sports or CBS Sports or the MLB Network -- and who will give up completely, never knowing that the game was on TBS).

For this game MLB has really outdone itself.  By creating an extra day between Tuesday's triple-header and today's Game Five, they have given everyone an excuse to forget about baseball.  Then they decided to air the game on TBS.  And then -- best of all -- they decided that it would start at 9:07 P.M. Eastern Time, making it impossible for almost any but the most determined viewers on the East Coast to see what should be the Game of the Year.

In 1978, the Yankees played the Red Sox in a one-game playoff.  I was 12 years old.  That game started at 2:30 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time (1:30 P.M. Central) on Monday, October 2.  It aired on ABC.  It took two hours and 52 minutes to play, which means that it finished at 5:22 P.M. Eastern (4:22 P.M. Central).  I got home from school around 3:15 P.M. Central, which means that I missed most of the game.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that I missed Bucky Dent's home run.  But I saw the last two innings, and I've never forgotten them.  Now, almost 45 years later, that game is still legendary -- even if a bunch of folks had to miss it for work or school.

By contrast, almost no one outside of California will remember this game, or will even see it.  That's a real shame.  The Giants and the Dodgers are really great teams, PacBell Park is one of the best stadiums in America, and the whole contest tonight should so baseball at its best.  I'm really looking forward to it, and I just wish more people would get to enjoy it.

Here's where we stand:

Boston defeats Tampa Bay 3-1
Houston defeats Chicago 3-1
Atlanta defeats Milwaukee 3-1
San Francisco and Los Angeles are tied 2-2

Tonight's game:
8:07 P.M. Central:  Los Angeles at San Francisco (TBS)

91 comments:

  1. On October 13, 1960, at 3:35 P.M. Eastern (2:35 P.M. Central), Bill Mazeroski belted a home run to win Game Seven of the World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The game was obviously played while most grown-ups were supposed to be at work. Somehow Americans found out what happened anyway.

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  2. Over the last 130 years, the Dodgers and Giants have played each other 2,539 times.

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  3. The last matchup between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants took place on September 8, 1957 before 22,376 people in the Polo Grounds. The Giants won 3-2.

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  4. The first matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants took place on Thursday, April 15, 1958 at Seals Stadium. The Giants won 8-0.

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  5. If you go on YouTube, you can hear Red Barber call a game on April 22, 1950 between the New York Giants (0-3 on the young season) and the Brooklyn Dodgers (2-1). Barber is as good as his reputation.

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  6. Vin Scully tweeted out earlier today that this is the most important game in the history of the Dodgers/Giants rivalry.

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  7. Here is how the Dodgers will start tonight's game:

    1. Mookie Betts, RF (.264, 23 HR's, 58 RBI's)
    2. Corey Seager, SS (.306, 16, 47) (95 games)
    3. Trea Turner, 2B (.328, 28, 77) (combined stats from Wash. and L.A.)
    4. Will Smith, C (.258, 25, 76)
    5. Justin Turner, 3B (.278, 27, 87)
    6. Gavin Lux, CF (.242, 7, 46) (102 games)
    7. Cody Bellinger, 1B (.165, 10, 36) (95 games)
    8. Chris Taylor, LF (.254, 20, 73)
    9. Corey Knebel, P (4-0, 2.45 ERA) (27 appearances, 4 starts)

    It's not clear why the Dodgers are starting Knebel. Some folks believe that he will be used as an "opener" who will be replaced early in the game by Julio Urias (20-3, 2.96 ERA in 32 starts).

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  8. And here are the Giants:

    1. Tommy LaStella, 2B (.250, 7 HR's, 27 RBI's) (76 games)
    2. Darin Ruf, LF (.271, 16, 43)
    3. Buster Posey, C (.304, 18, 56)
    4. Brandon Crawford, SS (.298, 24, 90)
    5. Kris Bryant, CF (.265, 25, 73) (combined stats from Cubs and S.F.)
    6. Mike Yastrzemski, RF (.224, 25, 71)
    7. Wilmer Flores, 1B (.262, 18, 53)
    8. Evan Longoria, 3B (.261, 13, 46)
    9. Logan Webb, P (11-3, 3.03 ERA in 26 starts)

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  9. ESPN Radio says the decision to start Knebel over Urias is an "organization" decision -- which means it's being driven by analytics, and is not the choice of manager Dave Roberts.

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  10. Over on the Dodger Radio Network, Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday tell us that they have no idea how long Knebel will last, or when Urias will enter. They seem skeptical of the Dodgers' big plan.

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  11. Vin Scully just tweeted out: "It's time for Dodger baseball!"

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  12. TBS takes us to San Francisco, and looks like a beautiful day by the Bay.

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  13. No gimmick uniforms. No gimmick rules. Charlie Steiner on Dodgers Radio. Jon Miller on Giants Radio. We're going to get real baseball tonight.

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  14. Oracle Park is packed to the rafters, and the usual collection of small boats, canoes, and kayaks is waiting for home runs in the Bay beyond right field.

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  15. Mookie Betts leads off by lacing a single to left field, and we are underway.

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  16. Logan Webb gets a lineout from Seager, and then former Nat Trea Turner hits into a double play to end the inning.

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  17. Webb completely dominated the Dodgers in Game One of this series, going 7 2/3 innings, striking out 10, walking none, and giving up no runs and only five hits.

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  18. With two outs in the bottom of the first, Buster Posey whangs an opposite field double off the right field wall.

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  19. Charlie Steiner had several more comments about the Dodgers' decision to use Knebel as an "opener" but Knebel strikes out Brandon Crawford on a 3-2 pitch to end the first. No score after 1.

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  20. The Dodgers' best hitter this year was first baseman Max Muncy (.249, 36 HR's, 94 RBI's, with 94 walks). But Muncy is hurt and has not played in this series.

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  21. Webb mows down the Dodgers 1-2-3 in the top of the 2d, as chants of "BEAT L.A." ring out across Oracle Park.

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  22. For the bottom of the 2d, the Dodgers pull Knebel and insert Brusdar Graterol, who went 3-0 with an ERA of 4.59 in 34 appearances this season. Charlie Steiner claims that his ERA is misleading because he got better down the stretch.

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  23. I think the Dodgers are playing this game as if they know they aren't going to score against Webb, and they need to shut out the Giants until they can get Webb out of there. Webb's only thrown 24 pitches through two innings, so he could be in there for a while.

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  24. Basically, the Dodgers are starting the games with the guys that they would normally use to pitch the later innings if they were in the lead. Their theory appears to be that with Webb on the other side, it's very unlikely that they will have a lead. So rather than keep these pitchers on the bench -- where they would be useless if the Dodgers are down something like 3-0 or 4-0 -- they're going to use them now.

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  25. Kris Bryant leads off the bottom of the second with an infield hit.

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  26. Dodgers now have Urias warming up in the bullpen. Presumably the Dodgers plan to bat for Graterol in the top of the 3d, and then bring in Urias with hopes that he can give them at least five good innings.

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  27. Wilmer Flores singles with one out to put runners on first and second. But Longoria pops up to first. That leaves it up to Logan Webb. He strikes out on three pitches, and the inning is over. So the Dodgers' relievers both did their jobs, and we are scoreless after two.

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  28. The Dodgers were right about Webb. He has another 1-2-3 inning and he has faced the minimum number of batters through three innings. He's thrown only 36 pitches.

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  29. So here comes Julio Urias for the Dodgers. He went 20-3 with a 2.96 ERA this year, and he better be great if the Dodgers are going to win this one.

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  30. The Giants respond by bringing in Donovan Solano (.280, 7 HR, 31 RBI's in 101 games) to pinch hit for their leadoff hitter.

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  31. In the top of the fourth, Betts picks up his second single, Will Smith gets a two-out walk, and Justin Turner comes up with two out and two on.

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  32. Turner taps out to Webb and the inning is over. Still scoreless. 52 pitches for Webb.

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  33. In the top of the 4th, the Dodgers shift over to the right, left-hander Brandon Crawford happily slaps a grounder the opposite way -- to where the third baseman would normally be -- and trots down to first with a leadoff single.

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    1. I'm sorry -- of course this is the bottom of the fourth.

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  34. Kris Bryant strikes out, and the Giants send up Austin Slater (.241, 12 HR's, 32 RBI's) to pinch hit for Mike Yastrzemski. Urias throws a wild pitch, and Crawford trots to second.

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  35. Slater slaps a grounder to second. He's out, and Crawford advances to third. Now it's up to Wilmer Flores.

    Urias v. Flores:
    Pitch One: Called Strike (0-1)
    Pitch Two: Foul Tip (0-2)
    Pitch Three: Ball Low (1-2)
    Pitch Four: Foul (1-2)
    Pitch Five: Ball High (2-2)
    Pitch Six: Pop out to Second.

    So the inning is over (Urias has thrown 25 pitches). Still scoreless after four.

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  36. I understand that people think baseball games take too long these days. But in a game like this one, I really love all of the strategic moves on both sides. This is a much more sophisticated game than it was when I was a kid.

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    1. Bill James did not work in vain. That should be a lesson to all of us.

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  37. The Dodger announcers must actually be at Oracle Park, because you can hear the Giants fans denouncing individual Dodgers in the background of the broadcast.

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  38. These pitches from Webb must be something else. On TV, they appear to be about a foot outside, but the Dodgers swing at them almost every time.

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  39. Webb mows down the Dodgers 1-2-3. 72 pitches for Webb. No score after 4 and one-half innings.

    Over to Urias.

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    1. The only good news for L.A. is that they made Webb throw 20 pitches in that inning.

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  40. In the bottom of the 5th, Urias strikes out the side. He's thrown 36 pitches. No score after 5.

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  41. Charlie Steiner tells us that we are down to a four-inning game.

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  42. With one out in the top of the 6th, Betts gets his third single of the game. He's the only Dodger with a hit. He then steals second.

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  43. Now Seager takes an outside pitch and golfs it over the third baseman's head and down the left field line. Betts scores. Seager gets to second. The Dodgers lead 1-0.

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  44. Webb mows down Trea Turner and Will Smith, and the Dodgers are stuck with only one run. 89 pitches for Webb. Dodgers lead 1-0 after 5 and one-half innings.

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  45. In the bottom of the 6th, Darin Ruf responds by blasting a 3-2 pitch 452 feet to dead center field. Urias can't hold the lead for even a single batter, and we are all tied up at 1.

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  46. With two outs in the bottom of the 6th, Kris Bryant slaps a single to left. The Dodgers send out Mark Prior, their pitching coach, to confer with Urias.

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  47. Slater grounds into a force out and the game is tied 1-all after six. Charlie Steiner says that we're down to a three inning game unless it goes to extras.

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  48. Betts doesn't come up in the 7th, so Webb mows down the Dodgers 1-2-3. That's 106 pitches, 4 hits, 1 run, 7 strikeouts, and only 1 walk. He has been as good as advertised.

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  49. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have given up on Urias, who is done after only four innings. Former Nat Blake Treinen (6-5, 1.99 ERA in 72 appearances) is on to pitch the seventh.

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  50. So far, the biggest difference in the game is that Webb pitched seven innings and gave up only one run, while the Dodgers got only four innings out of Urias.

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  51. Webb is finished. With two outs in the bottom of the 7th, the Giants send up Alex Dickerson to pinch hit.

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  52. Dickerson strikes out, and Charlie Steiner tells us that we are down to a two-inning game. Dodgers and Giants tied 1-all after 7.

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  53. The new pitcher for the Giants is Tyler Rogers (7-1, 2.22 ERA in 80 games). Remember that thanks to Webb, the Giants' bullpen only has to get six outs. The Dodgers have already used three relief pitchers to get nine outs, and they still have to get six more.

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  54. A.J. Pollock pinch hits for Treinen, and taps a one-out single down the first base line. That brings up Mookie Betts.

    Rogers v. Betts:
    Pitch One: Swinging Strike (0-1)
    Pitch Two: Ball High (1-1)
    Pitch Three: Ball High (2-1)
    Pitch Four: Called Strike (2-2) ("BEAT L.A." chants ring out)
    Pitch Five: Foul (2-2)
    Pitch Six: Betts singles to center field. In the Game of the Year, he is 4 for 4.

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  55. Dodgers now have runners on first and second. Charlie Steiner comments that he thinks the next team to score will be the winner. Seager comes to the plate with one out:

    Rogers v. Seager:
    Pitch One: Ball High (1-0)
    Pitch Two: Foul (1-1) (Rick Monday thought this pitch was inside)
    Pitch Three: Ball Low (2-1)
    Pitch Four: Called Strike (2-2)
    Pitch Five: Swinging Strike. Two out.

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  56. So it comes down to Former Nat Trea Turner, who has been terrible all night. But the Giants don't want Rogers to face him. They replace Rogers with Camilo Doval (5-1, 3.00 ERA in 29 games)

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  57. Here we go in what might be the Dodgers' last good chance. Two on, two out, 1-1 in the top of the eighth:

    Doval v. T. Turner:
    Pitch One: T. Turner flies out to right and the inning is over. Turner is 0-4. I'd like to say that he will regret swinging at the first pitch, but I've been watching him for years and that's how he plays.

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  58. Having used so much of their bullpen already, the Dodgers have to bring in their closer, Kenley Jensen (4-4, 2.22 ERA and 38 saves in 69 appearances).

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  59. Jansen pitches magnificently, retiring the top of the Giants' lineup in order, and striking out Buster Posey to end the inning. Still tied at 1-all after 8.

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  60. After eight innings, each team has one run, six hits, and no errors. It's hard to imagine you could ever see two more evenly matched teams who are both this good.

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  61. With one out in the top of the 9th, Justin Turner is hit on the shoulder.

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  62. Lux singles to right and Justin Turner goes to second. This brings up Cody Bellinger, who was a big star a few years ago, but who batted only .165 this season. Bellinger is 0-3 in this game. The Giants' pitching coach comes out to talk to Doval.

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  63. Bellinger comes through! He laces a single to right-center and Justin Turner scores! Lux races to third. The Dodgers lead 2-1 in the top of the ninth.

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  64. When Bellinger came up to bat, Rick Monday said that Doval was a good matchup for him because Doval keeps the ball low and Bellinger's biggest problem is hitting a high pitch. Sure enough, Bellinger singled off of a low pitch. Good job, Rick Monday!

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  65. Now we've got moves. The Giants bring in Kevin Gausman, who started 33 games and had a record of 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA. The Giants also bring the infield in. Chris Taylor, who homered in the 9th against the Cardinals in the wild card game, comes up to bat.

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  66. Taylor tries to bunt! That goes very badly, as he pops the ball straight to the first baseman. The Dodgers now send up Matt Beaty to pinch hit for Jansen.

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  67. The Dodgers are apparently going to bring in former Nat Max Scherzer to pitch the ninth.

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  68. Scherzer, of course, is one of the great pitchers of all time. This year, pitching for the Nats and the Dodgers, he went 15-4 in 30 starts with an ERA of 2.46. But he is 36 years old, he's not a relief pitcher, and he's already thrown 179 innings this year.

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  69. Beaty grounds out and the Dodgers lead 2-1. The Giants will send up Crawford, Bryant, and Slater.

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  70. Here you see where the Dodgers were hurt by Urias's only pitching four innings. If he could have gone one more inning, the Dodgers could be using Jansen now. But he didn't, so it's up to Scherzer.

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  71. Crawford lines out to left. One out, and a very dangerous one.

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  72. Bryant slaps a grounder to third, and Justin Turner bobbles it. That's the first error of the game, and it puts Bryant on first.

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  73. Now LaMonte Wade will bat for Austin Slater.

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  74. Wade gets ahead 2-0 on the count, and hits some dangerous looking fouls, but is called out on strikes. Two out.

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    1. That last pitch by Scherzer to Wade was spectacular -- a perfect pitch on the corner that Wade could not hit, but which was clearly a strike.

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  75. Scherzer gets to an 0-2 count on Flores. The third pitch appears to be outside, but the Dodgers appeal to the first base umpire -- AND HE CALLS FLORES OUT!!! The Dodgers FINALLY ELIMINATE THE GIANTS, TWO TO ONE!

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    1. In 2006 or so, the Saint Paul's Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) softball team was eliminated in the first round of its Raleigh, N.C., league's playoffs when I watched three slow-pitch called strikes for the final out. I'm pretty sure Saint Paul's has never had a softball team again since that season.

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  76. What a brilliant game by the Dodgers. Every one of their moves worked, and indeed it's hard to see how they could have done better.

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  77. I'm sure a lot of people will be unhappy that the game ended on a called third strike by the first base umpire. But I'm unhappy that the Giants won by stealing signs in 1951. I've watched the Dodgers since 1973, and with the exception of their three world titles, beating this Giants team -- on the road, in a single-elimination playoff -- is the best thing I've ever seen them do.

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  78. The whole history of the Dodgers is littered with heart-breaking defeats in exactly this situation. Seeing them actually win one of these is truly amazing.

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  79. I am now rooting for the Dodgers, Red Sox and Dodgers.

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