SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — With some mighty swings, solid pitching and defensive gems that have defined the Dodgers' success the past decade, the defending World Series champions are headed home in prime playoff position having grabbed momentum away from the division-winning Giants.
Fittingly, this NL Division Series between rivals has become a back-and-forth fight.
Julio Urías shut down San Francisco and contributed an RBI single for his cause, Cody Bellinger and AJ Pollock delivered two-run doubles to break it open in the sixth, and Los Angeles pounded the Giants 9-2 on Saturday night to even the series between baseball's two winningest teams at one game apiece.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts declared earlier in the day, “We're going to play this game essentially like a do or die,” and the reigning champs did just that by continuing to add on all game, including Will Smith's leadoff homer in the eighth.
Now, NL West runner-up Los Angeles — second place despite 106 wins to the Giants' 107 — is going to Chavez Ravine with a chance to ride this win and hand ace Max Scherzer the ball next.
“It's a good feeling,” Roberts said. “It's interesting how the narrative changes from game to game. Right now, it's a three-game series, we have home-field advantage and we have Max on the mound. I like where we're at.”
The best-of-five set shifts to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 on Monday night all square, hardly a surprise considering how close these clubs played for months. The Giants edged the Dodgers for the division on the final day and took the season series 10-9 but were outscored overall 80-78.
“It's great to win one on the road,” Dodgers star Mookie Betts said. “Julio pitched a great game. Any type of atmosphere like this, he's going to come ready to pitch.”
Urías hit an RBI single in the second to give Los Angeles the lead, and Betts followed with a run-scoring single.
And those “Let’s go, Giants!” chants were suddenly competing against the fired-up Los Angeles faithful’s “Let’s go, Dodgers!” in a boisterous, largely orange sellout crowd of 42,275.
“It was exciting to get the team going, I think they fed off that,” Urías said through an interpreter.
San Francisco answered right back in the bottom half when Urías walked Wilmer Flores leading off and gave up Brandon Crawford's single. Flores advanced on Evan Longoria's deep flyball to center and scored on a sacrifice fly by Donovan Solano.
Urías hardly looked rattled.
Leading up to his start, the 25-year-old lefty stressed how facing these Giants would take an immense focus — and the 20-game winner sure looked the part from first pitch in outdueling Giants All-Star right-hander Kevin Gausman.
Urías went unbeaten over his final 17 regular-season starts since June 21, going 11-0 during that stretch that included a Sept. 4 victory here at raucous Oracle Park. He struck out five and walked one over five innings Saturday, giving up one run on three hits.
“I’ve never seen him not having his stuff. He always has it,” Giants infielder Wilmer Flores said.
Gausman, furiously chomping his bubble gum, had a tough act to follow after a gem by Logan Webb in his postseason debut a night earlier, when the right-hander and a pair of relievers held the slugging Dodgers to five hits in a 4-0 victory.
Trea Turner also contributed two stellar defensive plays at second base, while Betts thwarted a potential Giants rally in the sixth with a perfect throw from right field to catch Flores at third. Flores took responsibility for the move.
“Sometimes you just do things you can't really explain,” Betts said of his play. “And that was just one of them.”
Buster Posey's sixth-inning single gave him 54 career playoff hits, most in Giants postseason history. He had three hits in the game.
“Obviously looking forward to turning the page on tonight’s game and getting ready for Los Angeles,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “It wasn’t our best effort tonight. Dodgers just swung the bats better than us, made more pitches than us, made more plays than us.
“So as we’ve done all season long, we’ll turn the page and get ready for an off day, an off day of preparation and get ready for Game 3.”
Roberts went with Bellinger at first base — he played four games there this year and 19 in 2020 — in order to get Chris Taylor's bat in the lineup. Taylor hit the decisive two-run homer in the ninth inning of Wednesday's 3-1 wild-card win over the Cardinals.
Taylor doubled in his first at-bat with one out in the second and wound up 2 for 4 with a walk.
Bellinger came through, too.
The 2019 NL MVP slumped to a .165 average in the regular season and was 0 for 5 with four strikeouts in the series before turning this one into a rout with his double in the sixth.
“He wanted to use the big part of the field, and for him to get rewarded, it was a huge hit,” Roberts said. “I think there was a big weight lifted off his shoulders.”
Before that, there had been 75,528 occasions that a player batted 50-plus times against a team in one season — postseason included — since 1903, and Bellinger’s .038 average (2 for 53) versus the Giants was the lowest of any of those players, according to SportRadar.
Dodgers: Los Angeles remains hopeful of having 1B Max Muncy back in action if the Dodgers advance. The slugger dislocated his left elbow in the regular-series finale Sunday after a collision with Milwaukee's Jace Peterson at first. Muncy, who batted .250 with 36 homers, isn't expected to need surgery.
Giants: 1B Brandon Belt was having his broken left thumb re-evaluated by hand specialist Dr. Scott Hansen. Belt and the Giants hope he will heal in time for a return in the NLCS should the Giants advance.
Giants left-hander Alex Wood will start Game 3. San Francisco was 12-2 with Wood on the mound following a loss in the regular season. Scherzer makes his second postseason start after pitching one-run ball over 4 1/3 innings in the wild-card win over St. Louis.
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