Before we descend into hysteria and discuss the call that ended the National League Division Series, sent the LA Dodgers to the NLCS, and ended the San Francisco Giants historic season, let’s get one thing straight: game five of the NLDS was an instant classic.
The Dodgers emerged victorious with a 2-1 win over the Giants in a pitchers duel between two clubs that had each won 109 games before Thursday night’s series-deciding game at Oracle Park.
All season long, the two clubs battled for the NL West crown, with a playoff matchup in October to decide the better team always on the horizon.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts threw a curveball at the Giants in game five, going with an “opener” to start the game, not bringing in starting pitcher Julio Urias until the third inning. Roberts gamble worked, with the LA staff giving up only one run on eight hits while striking out 13.
As could be expected, Mookie Betts was the best player on the field for LA, going 4-4, including a single and a stolen base in the sixth inning that led to the Dodgers’ first run of the game.
Much-maligned outfielder Cody Bellinger came up big when the Dodgers needed him most, driving in Justin Turner in the top of the ninth with a single to right off Giants reliever Camilo Doval.
CODY BELLINGER. pic.twitter.com/quEWBFR5hc
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 15, 2021
Bellinger battled injuries all year long — playing in just 95 games and hitting an anemic .165 in the regular season — but the former NL MVP made Dodgers fans forget all about his regular-season struggles with one swing of the bat.
“You don’t think about being that guy,” Bellinger said. “When the opportunity is there and the moment is there, you just try to stay simple and stay within yourself. “
Trade deadline acquisition Max Scherzer came in to close the game in the ninth, earning the first save of his career.
“Knowing you have, I guess, an ace in the hole is a good feeling,” Roberts said. “I just wanted to try to find the ultimate leverage spot to deploy him. Just how the game played out, it made a lot of sense.”
But, try as we might to appreciate the beauty of the game, we can’t go any further without discussing the last out of the night — a disastrous and terrible check swing strike called by first base umpire Gabe Morales.
Morales deemed that Wilmer Flores went around on an 0-2 slider from Scherzer, ending the Giants season and sending the umpire crew off the field to a showering of boos.
— Umpire Auditor (@UmpireAuditor) October 15, 2021
Flores didn’t go around. Flores didn’t swing at the pitch from Scherzer. Flores should have had another chance with a man on first.
Morales blew the call. There’s no other way of putting it.
Here’s another angle.
This was a checked strike three and ended the series…
Thoughts? 😬 pic.twitter.com/4CxfpdJUye
— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) October 15, 2021
Asked after the game about the call, Morales told reporters that “check-swings are one of the hardest calls we have. I don’t have the benefit of multiple camera angles when I’m watching it live. When it happened live I thought he went, so that’s why I called it a swing.”
Crew chief Ted Barrett answered for Morales when he was asked whether he still felt Flores swung after seeing the replay.
“Yeah, no, we, yeah, yeah, he doesn’t want to say,” Barrett said.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler said it was a “frustrating” way to end the game.
“It looked like he didn’t go. I mean, that was my take on it,” Kapler said.
“I just think it’s just a disappointing way to end,” he said.
Flores was 0-17 in his career against Scherzer before his game five at-bats, but this is baseball. Crazy things happen, and Morales took the bat out of Flores’ hands.
“I mean, the immediate emotion is frustration, right?” Kapler said.
“Super tough. Yeah, I mean, obviously you don’t want a game to end that way. I know these guys work really hard to make the right call, so it’s super challenging on our end. Obviously, it’s going to be frustrating to have a game end like that. But a pretty high-quality hitter at the plate that can climb back into that count, it’s no guarantee of success at the end of the at-bat. It’s just a tough way to end it.”
Whether we like it or not, the end-of-game call will be what is remembered most from the game five classic, though it doesn’t diminish what the Dodgers have accomplished.
They advance to their fifth NLCS in six years with a chance to advance to the World Series for the fourth time in five seasons.
“I think what great ball clubs have the ability to do is understand the gravity of a moment — a series in this case — [and] give everything they have to that moment or series, which we did,” Roberts said postgame. “We poured everything we could into this series and it took everything we had to beat these guys. But we have a day to reset and now our focus turns to the Braves.”
Game one of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves is Saturday, October 16 at 8:07 p.m. ET.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.