Buster Posey had played 1,347 major league games before Friday night. He’s running out of unprecedented things. But on Friday night, he was back in the dugout waiting out a video review that would either wrap up an imperative game for his Giants or sentence him to a 12th inning of catching, crouching, thinking, grinding.
He got the call he wanted. He was indeed safe when impromptu Dodgers first baseman Will Smith came off the bag as he tried to glove a high toss by still-developing second baseman Trea Turner. Posey had made the “safe” sign as he crossed the bag, but nobody really knew, especially the assembled pitchers in both clubhouses who were watching Oracle Park replays and knowing they were delayed.
“We were listening for the crowd,” said Anthony DeSclafani, the Giants’ starter. “It seemed like it took 20 minutes.”
They heard it soon enough. Posey was safe, the Giants had scored in the 11th and beaten the Dodgers, 3-2, to regain sole possession of first place in the National League West, and now his teammates were partying.
“That’s the first time I’ve celebrated a walk-off in the dugout,” Posey said. “But the guys weren’t hitting me. I’m a 34-year-old catcher. They know they have to be careful.”
September is the time when baseball escapes the chain and explores the possibilities around it, tries to see what it can see.
Game One of this three-game series, the last rendezvous of the season, lasted long enough to involve every position player and even some of the starting pitchers, as Walker Buehler pinch-ran for Albert Pujols in the 10th – after The Machine had thundered his way from second to third on a fly ball – and scored as a ghost runner.
Seventeen people pitched, all of them effectively. The ninth and 10th pitchers for the Dodgers reminded you of the clerks in a studio mailroom who wind up punching out the villain and riding off with the girl. Andrew Vasquez had an ERA of infinity, which means he’d never retired a major league hitter, and Evan Phillips had a 7.13. Vasquez got two outs in the 10th and Phillips finished up and then would have steered the game into the 12th if not for Turner’s poor throw.
That is how deep the Dodgers are digging, in these bullpen games. Six times their relievers retired the Giants with two outs and a man in scoring position. Now they have Julio Urias and Walker Buehler for the rest of the weekend, and the Giants are the ones averaging an arm per inning, which isn’t the recommended mileage in September. Logan Webb, their best starter, was already ticketed to play the outfield in the 12th, had there been one, because Alex Dickerson came up gimpy. This time of year makes Ohtanis of us all.
Because of that, San Francisco needed the win more than the Dodgers did, but both were willing to risk health and dignity, not to mention discord. Giants manager Gabe Kapler pinch-hit Austin Slater for LaMonte Wade Jr., one of his most consistent hitters, in the third inning. Why? Because the bases were loaded and the Dodgers had just brought in lefty Alex Vesia. Slater dutifully singled home the first run of the game, and it held up until the ninth, when Chris Taylor gouged a two-out RBI single that tied it 1-1 and followed another play that had one hand scratching the head and another reaching for the rulebook.
“I thought it was like being in the seventh or eighth inning,” Kapler said. “Runs would be hard to come by. I immediately explained it to LaMonte. I told him I knew he could have driven the run home, too, but Austin is on the roster for this reason.”
The Giants are in first place because their orchestra has no soloists, or at least no divas, although shortstop Brandon Crawford buttressed his MVP case by throwing out Justin Turner at the plate in the 11th.
Another tag of Turner would have ended the game two innings earlier. Turner had singled and Corey Seager (four hits) had doubled with one out. Smith grounded hard to Crawford, who threw home, and Turner’s only hope was to get into a rundown and hope the Giants made a hiccup. He ran back to third, where Seager already was, and Posey followed him and tagged them both.
Turner was the surviving runner because he had already occupied third. Seager was out and he walked off the base. But then, as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts gasped, so did Turner. And then, as Kapler gasped, Posey made a move toward Seager, who was already gone, and let Turner get back to the bag. Once Posey realized he should have tagged Turner, he shook his fist in disgust, because the Giants would have won, 1-0. Instead, Taylor tied it, and the two sides radioed headquarters for fresh bodies and provisions.
“I messed that up,” Posey said.
Nothing to do but guide more pitchers through the Dodger minefield. DeSclafani is 11-2 when he doesn’t face the Dodgers. He was 0-3 with a 9.43 ERA in his previous five starts against L.A. this season, but he gave up just two hits in six innings and didn’t let a Dodger past third base. His breaking stuff provided cover for a fastball that kept clipping the edges.
Next thing you know Posey is trying to reach third gear down the baseline, as he runs out a grounder the way every coach in his life told him to, long before every close play had to be examined twice.
“He was just fast enough,” DeSclafani said, although he could have been talking about the game.
— MLB (@MLB) September 4, 2021
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