It’s not especially common for a National League Division Series to be as hyped as much as the San Francisco Giants taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers is, but, then again, there was nothing common about either team this season.
Stuck in the same division — the NL West — the Giants and Dodgers put together the two most impressive campaigns in the majors. At the end of the regular season, though, the Giants (107-55) barely edged the Dodgers (106-56) to take the division crown.
That allowed the Giants to avoid the dreaded NL Wild Card Game, which the Dodgers won against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday thanks to a two-run walkoff home run from Chris Taylor. Los Angeles’ win cleared the path for a series that many in baseball think is a World Series-caliber matchup. It definitely should be a close and exciting series.
Walker Buehler gets the start for the Dodgers against San Francisco’s Logan Webb, who was yet another Giants player to take an enormous step forward in 2021. Buehler was under consideration for starting the Wild Card game, an honor that went to Max Scherzer. They’ll face off in what is somehow the first-ever postseason meeting between two of baseball’s most storied franchises.
First pitch from Oracle Park on Friday is at 9:37 p.m. ET. The BetUS Sportsbook has the Dodgers as -113 moneyline favorites while the Giants are +103 moneyline. MLB lines have the over/under at seven runs.
Buehler Dealing At Right Time
The fact that a pitcher of Buehler’s ability (justifiably) didn’t pitch in his team’s win-or-go-home Wild Card game speaks to the talent of the Dodgers rotation. Buehler was incredible during the regular season, pitching a 2.47 ERA in a majors-high 33 starts and 207.2 innings, making him one of the few pitchers in baseball to eclipse the 200-inning mark.
In addition to his reliability, Buehler has some of the best stuff in baseball and is a great all-around pitcher. He strikes out a batter per inning, doesn’t walk many hitters and has held opponents to a .199 batting average. Buehler doesn’t really have any weaknesses, and he is even limiting home runs better than he did in his stellar 2019 campaign.
He did struggle in a few September starts after an incredible August, but he finished out the regular season with two really strong outings against the San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers. Buehler seems to be hitting his stride at the perfect time. Plus, he had a 2.19 ERA in 37 innings against the Giants, so he has had plenty of success against San Francisco. If you’re betting online, go with him and the Dodgers’ moneyline.
Webb Could Be Hitting Wall
The San Francisco Giants didn’t expect a ton from Webb this season after he posted five-plus ERAs in short stints in the majors in 2019 and 2020. So, this season, in which he had a 3.03 ERA in nearly 150 innings and a 1.106 WHIP, was a huge surprise. He took his ground-ball tendencies to another level, notching an incredible 60.9 percent ground-ball rate. Opponents batted just .234 against him and hit into 18 double plays, showing how good he is at limiting baserunners and getting rid of them once they get on base.
Webb’s style is a perfect fit for the Giants and their cavernous ballpark. Also, as you’d expect, he rarely gives up home runs, allowing just nine all season. That’s very important against a Dodgers team that hit the fourth-most home runs in baseball (the Giants were No. 2). He has also turned into an effective strikeout pitcher as well.
However, there is certainly a concern that Webb is approaching uncharted territory. He’s on the cusp of 150 innings, which is more than triple his previous high in the majors and more than he has thrown in any professional season across all levels. His late-season issues — a 4.50 ERA in his last six starts — could be a sign of worse things to come in the postseason. The MLB playoff odds think this is a possibility and you should go along with it.
Belt’s Absence Looms Large
Nothing is worse than a hugely important player getting hurt right before the playoffs. That nightmare came true for the Giants when first baseman Brandon Belt fractured his left thumb while trying to lay down a bunt in the last week of the regular season. He hasn’t played since and is not on the Giants’ NLDS roster. That will force Gabe Kapler to reconfigure his lineup, not to mention costing him a key player who hit 29 home runs in less than 100 games.
The Giants are deep, though, and can cover Belt’s absence with a combination of righties Wilmer Flores and Darin Ruf and lefty LaMonte Wade Jr. San Francisco has been so good in large part due to its roster versatility, which will be tested without Belt.
If you’re making MLB picks, go with the Dodgers on Friday but only on the moneyline (not the runline). This should be a close game (and close series) but Los Angeles’ lineup will make the difference.