LOS ANGELES — The Giants arrived at Dodger Stadium on Monday night with the deck seemingly stacked against them.
They were facing a Dodgers team that hadn’t lost a home game since Aug. 29. They were facing three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who hadn’t dropped a decision since joining Los Angeles in a blockbuster deal at the Trade Deadline. The elements only added to their challenge, with gusty conditions that were more reminiscent of Candlestick Park than Chavez Ravine.
But the Giants once again managed to beat the odds.
In a contest with no margin for error, the Giants pieced together a nearly flawless game, holding on for a 1-0 win in Game 3 of the National League Division Series to seize a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five showdown between the longtime rivals.
Left-hander Alex Wood set the tone with 4 2/3 scoreless innings. Evan Longoria broke out of a prolonged slump with a fifth-inning solo shot off Scherzer. Brandon Crawford made a jaw-dropping leaping grab to rob Mookie Betts of a game-tying hit in the seventh. And rookie Camilo Doval went through the heart of the Dodgers’ fearsome order to earn a six-out save in only his second career postseason appearance.
“Just truly special performances across the board,” Wood said. “And on a weird night. In five years of playing here, I’ve never seen the weather and the wind like it was tonight. It was just really odd. It felt like we were kind of playing in San Francisco a little bit, more so than L.A. But just a great team win, it really was.”
The Giants are now only one win away from advancing to their first NL Championship Series since 2014. They’ll attempt to punch their ticket to the next round on Tuesday night, when they’ll send Anthony DeSclafani to the mound in Game 4. In postseason history, the Game 3 winner in any best-of-five series that was tied 1-1 has gone on to win the series 39 of 54 times (72%).
Los Angeles rolled to a 9-2 win in Game 2 on Saturday to even the series at one game apiece, but Wood once again channeled his role as the Giants’ most reliable stopper, holding the Dodgers’ right-handed-heavy lineup to two hits — a pair of singles by Albert Pujols — and two walks while striking out four. San Francisco improved to 13-1 in games Wood has started following a loss this year.
“He’s just so incredibly competitive, so fiery,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He always feels like he’s the best option to get the next three hitters out. I think you probably saw that he still felt like he was a good option to get more hitters out, and we love that about him. I wouldn’t take away any of that fire, any of that competitiveness.”
Wood, of course, knows the Dodgers well, and vice versa. He spent five seasons pitching in Los Angeles, where he helped the Dodgers break their 32-year title drought last year.
Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts trusted Wood enough to deploy him for two pivotal innings out of the bullpen in the decisive Game 6 of the World Series, but when the 30-year-old left-hander hit free agency last offseason, he wanted another opportunity to prove himself as a starter.
Wood signed an incentive-laden, one-year deal with San Francisco, reuniting with former Dodgers executive and current Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. He delivered when it mattered most on Monday, lowering his career ERA in the postseason to 3.11 over 21 appearances.
“These are the moments that test you,” Wood said. “If you’re in the big leagues, if you’re a big league ballplayer, you’re one of the best at what you do on planet Earth. So you work hard all offseason, you work hard all season for things to culminate in moments like these. For it to go my way tonight and our team’s way, after the work we put in all year and the work that I know those guys do day-in and day-out is really special.”
The Giants paired stellar pitching with elite fielding, with Crawford producing the defensive highlight of the night in the seventh. With a pair of runners on and two outs, Betts hit a 100.4 mph missile toward left field, but Crawford made a perfectly timed leap to snag the ball and preserve San Francisco’s 1-0 lead.
“He’s got some boosters out there,” Kapler said of his 34-year-old shortstop. “Just another exceptional play from Craw.”
A few other impressive plays from the Giants’ defense went more overlooked, but they proved just as crucial. Steven Duggar raced into the right-center-field gap to run down a fly ball off the bat of Chris Taylor to end the bottom of the sixth, making a difficult play look fairly routine.
After second baseman Tommy La Stella departed with left Achilles tightness in the bottom of the sixth, his replacement, Donovan Solano, also came in and ranged far to his left to make a nice play on AJ Pollock’s grounder to end the seventh.
“As much as our bullpen was responsible for tonight’s win, as much as Evan Longoria’s swing was responsible for tonight’s win, I think just the overall defensive effort was a big contributing factor as well,” Kapler said. “The outfielders really did a nice job.”
The final out of the game featured an assist from the wind. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers sent Gavin Lux up to pinch-hit against Doval, who pumped a 99.3 mph fastball that Lux drove deep out to center field. Pretty much everyone — including Roberts, Longoria and Crawford — thought the ball was gone off the bat, but the wind knocked it down, allowing the Giants to escape with the win.
“My stomach pretty much sank when he hit it,” Longoria said. “I couldn’t believe that it didn’t [go out], but I guess it was just our night tonight.”