SAN FRANCISCO — It was a 24-round heavyweight prize fight in spikes, a tape-measure finish after a six-month marathon, and by the end of the night, the Los Angeles Dodgers were the last ones standing.
The Dodgers were weary and utterly exhausted, but they hung on Thursday night to finally depose the San Francisco Giants, 2-1, in front of a frenzied sellout crowd of 42,275 at Oracle Park, for their 110th victory of the season.
The Dodgers waited until the final round to deliver their biggest blow, rallying off rookie closer Camilo Doval. Cody Bellinger, who had hit just .165 this season, made him pay with a run-scoring, one-out single in the ninth, scoring Justin Turner from second base.
The Dodgers, who tried to outsmart the Giants by having reliever Corey Knebel start the game instead of 20-game winner Julio Urias, turned to their bag of tricks one last time.
They brought in three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who pitched seven innings in Game 3, to close out the game in the ninth, and he delivered with his first career save at the age of 37.
The Dodgers, by winning the deciding Game 5 of NL Division Series, now will face Atlanta in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series beginning Saturday in Atlanta.
The Giants, after winning 109 games during the season, including a franchise-record 107 regular season games, are going home.
It doesn’t seem fair.
Then again, who ever said postseason baseball was fair?
“This has been so close all year that it’s just crazy to think that there’s a couple of moments,’’ Giants third baseman Evan Longoria said, “that are going to define what seven months of work have done.’’
Said Dodgers All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts, who had a postseason career-high four hits: “This is probably the most evenly matched series with another team that I’ve ever been part of.’’
These two teams traded punches and counter-punches all season long, so it was only appropriate that this do-or-die game was a microcosm of the season.
Back and forth they went all night.
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Giants ace Logan Webb again was masterful, yielding only one hit to everyone not named Mookie Betts, blinked first. Betts produced his third hit in the sixth inning, and this time, it caused damage. He stole second base and scored when Corey Seager drilled a double down left field for a 1-0 lead.
The Dodgers’ euphoria didn’t even last a batter.
Left fielder Darin Ruf, after watching Urias throw five consecutive fastballs, unloaded on the sixth one. It was a 95-mph fastball right down the middle of the plate. He sent it out 452 feet towards Alcatraz, 110-mph off his bat, with the crowd screaming with every step he took rounding the bases.
It will be remembered as one of the greatest games in the Dodgers-Giants 131-year rivalry, turning Webb into a folk hero the way Tim Lincecum is still revered, with Ruf taking a page out of Barry Bonds’ playbook.
Webb was simply unreal this series. He gave up just nine hits and one run in 14 ⅔ innings, striking out 17 with one walk. He gave up just four hits this night, three to Betts. He still hasn’t lost a game since May 5, with the Giants going 19-2 in his last 21 starts.
There is always a winner and a loser in games, but this time, it hardly seemed right to call the loser a failure.
“I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this,’’ Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “I was hoping we would win in three straight. But I think if you’re talking about baseball, it’s the first time that this has happened, us playing in a postseason series, the way that the regular season played out, it was inevitable.
“This is bigger than just one game, and that’s what’s beautiful about this rivalry, sports in general.
“So we’re going to enjoy it.’’
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