The San Francisco Giants have been a great story in 2021. At the start of the year, they weren’t even in the conversation in the NL West. The word on the street was that not only the NL West, but arguably the National League as a whole was a two-team race. It was all about the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Last weekend the Dodgers came to San Francisco for the first meeting between those defending champion Dodgers and the underdog, yet National League-best Giants. Having the best record in the National League wasn’t enough. The narrative was simple. If the Giants could beat the Dodgers, then perhaps they would start to garner the respect that their record had shown that they deserve.
Well, that did not happen. The Dodgers gracefully danced through the daisy garden known as the Giant’s self-respect, sweeping the Giants three games to zero. The Dodgers wreaked havoc, raising stud starter Anthony DeSclafani’s 2.03 ERA to 3.54 in less than three full innings. All the while, Max Muncy deposited yet another booming homer “into the ocean,” as he likes to say. The Giants that were flying so high had been brought back to reality. And the doubts that had surrounded the Giant’s success were justified for the time being. They are good, but not of the same class as the Dodgers and Padres. There is no way that their starting pitching can continue to perform at an elite level. “Insert comment about how the Giants don’t belong, here.”
After the disappointing series loss, it was time for the Giants to wipe their tears. A day off to cry it out, followed by a two-game set vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then back into the ring with the Dodgers.
A Brand New Series.
You hear “this is the most important series of the year” probably too often. How many series can really be the most important over the span of 162 games? Four days after the Giants started their most important series of the year vs. the Dodgers, and the Giants began, their most important series of the year, vs. the Dodgers once more.
The Dodgers took game one 3-4 in a home-run-or-bust contest. After game one, the Giants tossed the Dodgers in the back of their Delorian and gunned it to 88, taking the next three games of the series. And for the time being, the Giants have won their most important series of the year.
Game two of the series delighted and horrified both teams in the ninth inning. A ninth-inning that has surely positioned itself safely on the ballot for the most exciting ninth inning of baseball in 2021. The Giants sent Tyler Rogers to the mound to close things out while enjoying a three-run lead. Do you know who didn’t care? Austin Barnes didn’t care–blasting a three-run shot with two outs to tie the game at five. Tyler Rogers gave up two home runs in 28 innings of work in 2020. So, there is no way he will give up back-to-back shots vs. the Dodgers, right? Enter Albert Pujols. Some of you might have heard of him. Pujols sent a shot to left field, up over the wall and into the robbing glove of Mike Tauchman. Stomachs dropped as thievery was on full display. The game was, in fact, not over. The Giants proceeded to score three runs in the tenth, and the Giants beat the Dodgers for the first time in 2021.
Kevin Gausman Vs. Clayton Kershaw, Yes Please
The bats came alive in game three, and the Giants beat the Dodgers behind 11 runs posted by the Giants offense. Game four was a showdown of studs—Giants ace Kevin Gausman vs. Giants killer number two, Clayton Kershaw. Gausman has been lights-out in May with an ERA under one. Gausman had gone 4-0 in May, including two wins vs. the Padres leading up to his showdown vs. Kershaw. His only no-decision came in a game vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates. A game where the Giants squandered his eight-inning, 12 strikeout performance. Clayton Kershaw, on the other hand, has 23 wins under his belt vs. the Giants. Including 13 at Oracle Park, Kershaw carries a 1.57 ERA in 25 games in San Francisco.
The Giants pounced on Kershaw early, scoring three runs in the first. Kershaw went six innings allowing five earned runs on 104 pitches. Gausman also went six innings, striking out seven batters while allowing two hits and zero runs on 72 pitches. This was Gausman’s first outing where he threw less than 90 pitches. He was removed for precautionary reasons after dealing with a sore hip. Gausman received a negative MRI Monday and is confident he will make his next start. “I haven’t missed a start yet, and I don’t plan to.” Said Gausman. After some to-be-expected torture in the form of a bottom-of-the-ninth-inning rally, the Giants beat the Dodgers with a final score of 5-4, and now hold a two-game lead over LA in the West.
The Giants Belong After Avenging Losses and Beating Dodgers
By no means should people now jump on the “Giants are better than the Dodgers” train. That would be silly. However, the Giants were never going to be respected as threats in the NL West until they proved that they could compete with the Dodgers. Now, it’s clear that they can compete. The starting rotation for the Giants is a genuine threat. Toss out DeSclafani’s horrifying start vs. the Dodgers, and his ERA would hover in the mid two’s. Alex Wood has an ERA of 2.44 and has been impressive in all of his starts. Gausman has established himself as a true ace. Not just the best pitcher on a team, so let’s call him an ace, but a true major-league ace.
The bats have started to come alive in San Francisco. This has been the piece that everyone has been waiting for. And it’s coming from unexpected places. Over the last seven days, outfielder Steven Duggar is batting .375, Austin Slater is batting a whopping .444, and Mauricio Dubon, who came up with a big three-run shot vs. Kershaw, has been shining on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The question of “is all of this sustainable for the Giants?”, isn’t going to go away. But, sustainability is a question for everyone. No one knows what the future holds. Toss out all of the, “can they,” and “will they” questions, and the only blemish for this exciting Giants team has been that they hadn’t beaten the Dodgers. Well, now they have, and the Giants are a very real threat. The Dodgers lead the 2021 season series against the Giants, 4-3, but all of that can change when the two NL West powerhouses and arch-rivals meet again at the end of June.
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