Giants observations: Controversial check swing ends NLDS Game 5 vs. Dodgers

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What we learned as Giants' season ends in controversy originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- A Darin Ruf check-swing call was at the heart of the Giants' incredible season-long rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers. An even worse call ended a thrilling NLDS between the two best teams in baseball. 

The 109-win season ended with a 2-1 loss to the Dodgers on Thursday night. The final strike of one of the best seasons in franchise history was not a strike. Wilmer Flores checked his swing with two outs, two strikes and the tying run on first, but first base umpire Gabe Morales rung him up. 

That was it for the NL West champs, who looked on in disbelief. It was also an awful way to end an all-time classic Game 5. The Dodgers had taken the lead on Cody Bellinger's single in the top of the ninth and turned the series over to Game 3 starter Max Scherzer, who had never before had a save opportunity in the big leagues. Justin Turner's error put Kris Bryant on first, but LaMonte Wade Jr. went down looking and Flores went down on the call. 

The night ended perhaps the best one-on-one race in MLB history. The Giants won 107 games in the regular season and the Dodgers won 106 before taking the Wild Card Game. Both teams took a game at home and one on the road to begin this thrilling NLDS, and the Giants entered the night with a 12-11 edge in the season series.

The rivals were meant to stay side by side through the tape, and in Game 5 they delivered behind 24-year-old Logan Webb and 25-year-old Julio Urias.

Through 5 1/3 innings, just one Dodger had a hit, but he was a big problem. Mookie Betts singled his first two times up but was stranded. With one out in the sixth he picked up the third hit of the night off Webb, and he immediately took off for second. Corey Seager poked a changeup into left and Betts jogged home for the game's first run. 

Webb kept Seager at second by striking out Trea Turner and getting Will Smith to fly out to the track, and Darin Ruf immediately rewarded him. Ruf had awful luck his first two times up, but he crushed a 452-foot homer to dead center while leading off the bottom of the sixth. 

Tyler Rogers took over in the eighth and put two runners on with one out, but he struck out Seager. Gabe Kapler turned to Camilo Doval, who got a huge ovation as he emerged from the bullpen and got Turner to fly out on the first pitch.

Doval hit Turner with one out in the ninth and Gavin Lux followed with a single. For some reason, the rookie who hits 102 mph threw four straight sliders to Bellinger, who struggled with velocity this season. He lined the final one into right-center to give the Dodgers the lead. 

The Ace

Webb's second half and Game 162 performance were great, but the postseason is what has really cemented him as the staff ace, and one of the game's best young pitchers. He has the look of someone who is going to start on Opening Day for the Giants for years to come. 

Webb allowed just four hits and struck out seven, nearly matching his brilliance in Game 1. Through his first two postseason starts, Webb has thrown 14 2/3 innings, allowed one run and struck out 17. 

Webb surprised the Dodgers in Game 1 by throwing 39 changeups, but he leaned heavily on a two-seamer with extreme horizontal break early on. After establishing that pitch, he started firing changeups and sliders at the Dodgers, who grounded back to the mound four times.

Buster Posey calls all three of Webb's pitches elite, and the Giants leaned on them equally. Webb threw 36 fastballs, 35 sliders and 35 changeups. 

Ruf Guy To Face

Ruf hit a ball 377 feet in his first at-bat and watched as Betts chased it down a couple of feet in front of the right field wall. It would have been a homer in 12 MLB ballparks. He added a foot in his next at-bat, but again ended up with a long fly ball. He was 0-for-2 despite hitting balls with expected averages of .530 and .500

The third time up, Ruf worked a 3-2 count against Urias and then attacked a fastball that was supposed to be up and in but leaked out over the plate. Gavin Lux turned and watched as the 110 mph liner landed halfway up the net that covers the bar area out in center field. 

The homer was the longest by Ruf since Statcast began tracking in 2015, although he did spend a lot of that time playing overseas. It was his first career playoff homer. 

The Opener

Dave Roberts shocked the baseball world on Thursday morning when the Dodgers switched their starter from Urias to Corey Knebel, but the plan worked out pretty well, despite some hairy moments. Knebel gave up a long and loud fly ball from Ruf and a double off the wall from Buster Posey, but threw a nasty curveball to Brandon Crawford to end the first inning. 

Brusdar Graterol, not Urias, took the second inning and stranded a pair of runners. The Dodgers essentially took the two hard-throwing right-handers who usually get the ball to the back end of their bullpen and moved them up ahead of Urias, and they got two scoreless innings out of them. 

Urias ended up pitching the third through sixth innings, allowing the one run on three hits. He struck out five.