Game 5 awaits: Dodgers push Giants to winner-take-all clash in all-time NLDS matchup

They scored seven, and left 11 more on base. Alternating between raucous joy and the anxious feeling of underachievement, the Los Angeles Dodgers won NLDS Game 4 over the San Francisco Giants Tuesday night to stave off elimination and force a winner-take-all Game 5 between the two best teams in baseball.

Thanks to homers from Mookie Betts and Will Smith, the defending champions’ must-win game turned into a fairly comfortable looking 7-2 victory. It didn't feel comfortable, though.

With the bases loaded and the home team already up 2-0 in the third inning, Dodger Stadium was ready to let loose. Truthfully, it did let loose but quickly had to restrain itself as wild-card hero Chris Taylor swatted a 3-2 pitch deep into left field that fell not in the seats, but in the soaring glove of Giants left fielder LaMonte Wade Jr. just before he bounced off the wall.

Owing to a frustrating inability to capitalize on offensive opportunities — the Dodgers left 11 men on base — the game stayed tight even as Giants manager Gabe Kapler yanked starter Anthony DeSclafani after just 1 2/3 innings and rearranged his lineup card seemingly every other inning.

It stayed tight as Walker Buehler — rising to his ace stature on the first Dodgers team of the era without Clayton Kershaw — pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his major-league career, held the Giants down through 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball.

The game stayed tight almost all the way to the end, until Smith belted a two-run shot in the eighth.

Having gotten the necessary win, the Dodgers can chalk it up as an encouraging night for a lineup that batted .176/.208/.330 in the first three games of the series. But they will head to San Francisco still wondering if this next game will finally be the one where they assert their superiority against the rivals who unexpectedly claimed what has long been their division.

Most expected the mighty Dodgers to pounce and overtake the overachieving Giants by August. And then, after adding Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, certainly by September. And then it never happened. The Giants kept winning and kept the Dodger faithful waiting with baited breath.

They’re still waiting. Over two chilly, windy nights in Los Angeles, the Dodgers dropped one game as Gavin Lux fell just short of a dramatic game-tying homer, and then handled Tuesday night’s must-win situation to force this historic series between 100-win titans to its limit.

That final showdown of this monthslong cat and mouse game is Thursday night. Julio Urias will start for the Dodgers, while Game 1 winner Logan Webb is lined up to pitch for the Giants. The winner will march on to face the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.