Most epic NLDS matchup ever? Answering the big questions about Giants-Dodgers

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12:30 AM ET

  • Alden Gonzalez

    NearESPN Staff Author

    • Joined ESPN in 2016 to cover the Los Angeles Rams
    • Earlier coated the Angels for
  • Tim Keown

    NearESPN Senior Writer

    • Senior Writer for ESPN The Magazine
    • Columnist for
    • Author of five guides (3 NYT best-sellers)

Which team is greater: the San Francisco Giants or the Los Angeles Dodgers? If you’ve got followed our MLB Power Rankings, you’ve got witnessed them flip back again and forth, just about all time extended, concerning the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in all of baseball.

The argument for the Dodgers? They’re the defending Environment Series champions and are positively loaded with star electricity!

The Giants? They held off L.A. and received the division!

Whichever aspect you are on, though, we’re about to obtain out the remedy — at the very least as far as 2021 is concerned — as the two Nationwide League West powerhouses satisfy up in the NL Division Collection soon after the Dodgers defeat the Cardinals in a stroll-off on Wednesday night time. As we get established for a series that will go away the victor as the preferred to acquire the pennant, ESPN baseball gurus Alden Gonzalez and Tim Keown break down what this matchup indicates and what each and every team requires to do to win — and give their picks for who will come out on top rated.

A 107-earn team vs. a 106-win crew — is this the most epic NLDS matchup ever?

Gonzalez: Place it this way: I can’t consider how there could perhaps be a much better 1. Commence with the truth that this is a person of the most historic rivalries in baseball heritage, that includes two teams that experienced beforehand under no circumstances faced off in the postseason, then imagine about how it all finished — with the Dodgers surging down the extend, combating fervently to chase down their ninth consecutive division title, and the Giants refusing to cede. The Dodgers went 43-13 following the start out of August, however they produced up only two games on the Giants. Wild.

Keown: This concern is far too restricting. Purely from a history standpoint, this would be the most epic Entire world Sequence matchup at any time in the 162-activity period. Two teams have hardly ever exceeded 105 wins in the exact same year — at any time — which is a testomony to the abilities of these two groups and the futility of numerous other people. Insert in the divisional rivalry and the restricted matchups this period (10-9 Giants) and the only difficulty with this sequence is that we you should not get to see it enjoy out around seven game titles.

Is this the greatest rivalry in baseball appropriate now?

Kelley L Cox-United states Currently Sports

Keown: I can only think you imply apart from Dodgers-Padres? (Ah, recollections.) Correct now, there is absolutely nothing that compares to this a single. There are the historic and geographic aspects of the rivalry, positive, but there is a little something far more elemental at work: The Giants have been crafted, at least in component, by two people (president of baseball functions Farhan Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler) who also served to devise the roster-setting up philosophy that has led to the Dodgers’ new run of dominance. And they have carried out it in San Francisco extremely immediately and pretty likewise, with an emphasis on depth and flexibility. These two groups have been so evenly matched this time, with so a lot of excellent online games, that (all over again) we have earned a seven-match sequence. Which reminds me: Is there nonetheless a dent in the ground in entrance of the Dodgers’ dugout in which Dave Roberts spiked his cap just after Darin Ruf’s (non)verify swing?

Gonzalez: Ah, yes, the examine swing. Mad how the division could have been made the decision by that simply call, or Sheldon Neuse not stretching on a close enjoy at second base, or Mike Tauchman robbing Albert Pujols of a stroll-off property run. Heading into the last typical-year sequence between these two teams, the Dodgers and Giants experienced not only break up their initially 16 video games in opposition to every other but the combined rating was 68-68. The Giants wound up having two of a few, but we are entitled to much more of these game titles. The only issue that may possibly have held this from getting the most effective rivalry heading was that it became a sluggish burn off. We predicted that the NL West would appear down to Dodgers-Padres, and it appears as if most of The united states didn’t concede to the Giants being at that stage till the common time concluded.

The Giants will gain the series if … ?

Gonzalez: Kris Bryant receives very hot once again. The Giants’ offense is not reliant on one particular participant, of training course. Considerably from it. But Brandon Belt’s absence leaves a major electric power void in this lineup. And Bryant is specially able of filling it. Considering the fact that the start of September, he is batting only .245/.353/.347. But he can convert it on speedily. And he’ll will need to against a Dodgers pitching personnel with an abundance of ability correct-handed arms.

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Keown: I’m tempted to generate a thing facile like, If they continue on to be one particular video game superior than the Dodgers, but a 5-video game collection is not the identical as a 162-activity period. To gain 3 of the upcoming five, the Giants need their starting up pitchers to go postseason deep — 5 to 6 innings — in every single recreation. The bullpen has been phenomenal, and the cometlike emergence of 22-calendar year-old closer Camilo Doval provides them an additional inning of depth, but it will limit the early- to center-inning variables if Kevin Gausman, Logan Webb and Anthony DeSclafani (presumably) can operate their way via the Dodgers’ lineup a few occasions every single. It will also point out an skill to maintain the Dodgers from rolling out four- and 5-operate innings, a specific specialty of theirs. On the other hand: Even this prediction is squishy due to the fact the Giants have gained video games so many unique strategies, and with so several different contributions (and contributors), that it feels pointless to get much too granular about any of it.

The Dodgers will get the series if …?

Gonzalez: Kenley Jansen closes the doorway. Provided how closely matched these two teams have been, it might actually be that easy. The greatest ripple influence of Clayton Kershaw’s personal injury might be that Julio Urias will stay a standard beginning pitcher in the postseason — he’ll take the ball in Game 2 — and Roberts would not have the overall flexibility to use him in that hybrid bullpen role he has thrived in in the course of prior Octobers. Urias, if you remember, recorded the past out of the Planet Series past 12 months, not Jansen. Now, though, the ninth inning will belong to Jansen. He has had a really very good 12 months — 2.22 Period, 1.04 WHIP, 30.9 strikeout share — but two of his five blown will save arrived from the Giants.

Keown: It is really similarly challenging to be reductive on this facet, but Max Muncy’s elbow harm throws a significant bright gentle on Cody Bellinger. He has been a person of the worst offensive gamers in baseball, and he looks particularly prone to swings of self esteem. Muncy’s damage leaves Corey Seager as the Dodgers’ only marquee still left-handed bat from the Giants’ a few appropriate-handed starters (presumably Gausman, Webb and DeSclafani.) Granted, the Dodgers’ offense is fantastic adequate at the best and deep adequate at the bottom to stand up to an damage, even just one this important. But Bellinger and his subterranean 45 OPS+ could possibly conclude up participating in 1st foundation, which also serves to degrade L.A.’s outfield protection when introducing a further pitcher-amount hitter to the buy. Another solution at initially: Pujols, whose vary is roughly his wingspan and who stands a chance of starting to be the initially player in an NLDS to strike into a 7-4-3 floor ball double play.

Is the winner of this LDS likely to the Planet Series?

Gonzalez: The Brewers were my pick to get the Entire world Collection, but then Devin Williams, a person of their two most critical relievers, broke his hand punching a wall. And 1 reliever usually does not make that major a big difference, but it ought to, given how great the Dodgers and Giants are. In brief — sure, the winner of this sequence is heading to the Earth Collection — assuming the team will not wholly exhaust its pitching just to survive what should really be a remarkably close LDS.

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Keown: Devoid of query. What’s wild about these two teams is how they have been compelled to play playoff baseball for just about 50 % a time. How do you get 106 online games and complete next? How do you acquire 107 and be pushed to the ultimate working day? A single way is by dealing with nearly each individual recreation like Recreation 7 — or, in the regrettable truth of our present discussion, Recreation 5 — and together the way acquiring out particularly what operates and what doesn’t. For this year at the very least, these two groups have nailed down the system.

Prediction time! Who ya bought and why?

Gonzalez: I forecast that the collection will be decided in the 15th inning of Recreation 5. And provided how this matchup has played out, I forecast that whatsoever prediction one particular helps make is certain to glimpse silly in hindsight.

Keown: Giants in 5, mostly because betting towards them this season, whilst popular, has proved to be each foolish and unfulfilling. They win, whichever way they can, and scoff at your predictions.