Dodgers offense wears off in NLDS Game 1 loss to Giants

A defeated Walker Buehler put his hands on his knees and looked away, to the ground, as the hysterical crowd waving orange towels celebrated along a frigid San Francisco bay. The National League Division Series Game 1 was not over. The Dodgers had two rounds to recover, six strikeouts for offense to show some semblance of life and topple the San Francisco Giants on Friday. It was just like that.

Buehler understood the moment. Kris Bryant’s solo homerun to left field to lead late in the seventh inning gave the Giants a three-run lead and three runs appeared to be 30 for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers offense – a formidable entity on paper even without an injured Max Muncy – was nowhere to be found at Oracle Park. Logan Webb was playing with them in his first career playoff start and the Giants’ box, perhaps the best of the majors, was looming. The points were precious and the prospect of the Dodgers scoring them seemed distant.

The Dodgers ended up scoring no goals, losing 4-0 in the first playoff game in the history of the legendary rivalry. They produced five hits. A Dodger did not reach third base after the first inning. The last four spots in their roster fell to 0 for 12 with seven strikeouts. They have scored three runs in 18 innings in two games so far in the playoffs.

While Buehler allowed three runs in 61/3 innings, Webb only needed 92 shots to register 72/3 scoreless innings. He allowed five hits and recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts without a walk. In 28 batting appearances against Webb, the Dodgers forced him to throw more than four shots on three occasions. He did not throw more than six single-hitter pitches.

In all, the Giants only needed 103 shots from Webb, sub Tyler Rogers and rookie Camilo Doval for the 27 strikeouts. It was the first time the Dodgers have been ruled out in the playoffs since Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. They’ve been shut out five times in the regular season.

Giants’ Logan Webb throws during the seventh inning. The right-hander worked 7 2/3 innings scoreless, striking out 10 on holds and walking none.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Buehler entered Friday with an earned-run average of 2.35 in 12 playoff starts. In the playoffs, he allowed five runs in 25 innings in five starts to solidify his reputation as a big game pitcher.

The Giants presented a unique challenge. No team knows Buehler better than San Francisco. The right-hander has faced the Giants six times this season. He allowed five runs (three earned) in the first five encounters, but allowed six in three innings on Sept. 5 at Oracle Park.

A month and three days later, Buehler tripped out of the door. He allowed Tommy La Stella a walk in the first set. Three batters later, he was 3-0 behind Buster Posey.

Buehler remained cautious, throwing a fastball at 96 mph. Posey was given the go-ahead and crushed the field anyway, throwing him over the brick wall into right field for a two-run home run.

It was the first home run Buehler gave up on a 3-0 pitch as a major league. It was only the second time in his last 10 playoff starts that he has given up more than a point.

VIDEO | 02:22

Walker Buehler and Dave Roberts talk about what went wrong with NLDS Game 1 loss

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler and manager Dave Roberts discuss the struggles that led to a 4-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS opener on Friday.

Buehler wasn’t particularly sharp after that, dropping a single in each of the next four innings. But he bypassed the traffic. He got some help in the second inning when shortstop Corey Seager and second baseman Trea Turner pulled off a superb double play late in the inning. It wasn’t until the sixth inning that Buehler retired the team in order.

And yet, Buehler allowed just two runs in six innings. He kept the Dodgers at striking distance, one stroke of changing the complexion of the game.

But Webb didn’t give in. The 24-year-old right-hander used the generous outside corner plate umpire Carlos Torres gave him to his advantage.

He sprinkled the fringes of the strike zone with his three-length mix, baiting an overzealous group in bad shots. He got a boost in the fourth when second baseman La Stella and shortstop Brandon Crawford executed an inning-
ending the double play that overshadowed the work of Seager and Turner earlier.

AJ Pollock of the Dodgers leaves the field after striking out in the third inning against the Giants on Oct. 8, 2021.

AJ Pollock of the Dodgers leaves the field after striking out in the third inning. The Dodgers have struck 11 times in total and have only managed five hits.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

With him, Webb operated smoothly with ruthless efficiency in the greatest match of his life.

He ended the inning by forcing Cody Bellinger to make a change for his 10th strikeout on his 77th pitch as the Dodgers blocked a runner on second in back-to-back innings.

Moments later, Bryant, the former Chicago Cubs slugger acquired mid-season to bolster the Giants to 107 wins down the stretch, smashed a 3-2 fastball on the wall in left center field. .

Buehler faced off against another hitter before Dodgers manager Dave Roberts stepped out to take him out, ending a night when the good wasn’t good enough.

Dodgers reliever Alex Vesia then gave a solo home run to Crawford in the eighth, providing the final margin for the Giants victory.

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