Friday, December 3 2021
San Francisco, CA - October 08: Los Angeles Dodgers' AJ Pollock reacts after striking out.

The Dodgers managed five hits and advanced only three runners into scoring position in a lackluster 4-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the National League Division Series in Oracle Park on Friday night.

Giants starter Logan Webb used the aggressiveness of the Dodgers hitters to his advantage, leaning far more on his changeup and slider than his ground-ball-inducing sinking fastball to blank the Dodgers on five hits in 7 2/3 innings, striking out 10 and walking none.

If the Dodgers, who swung and missed at 11 balls outside the strike zone, don’t make quicker and more effective adjustments against San Francisco right-hander Kevin Gausman in Game 2, they’ll be in danger of losing the first two games of the best-of-five series.

Here are five takeaways from Friday night’s game:

Night moves

Manager Dave Roberts announced after the game that he will move center fielder Cody Bellinger to first base and start Chris Taylor, who hit a walk-off two-run homer in Wednesday night’s wild-card win over the St. Louis Cardinals, in center field for Game 2.

He should take an even bigger sledgehammer to his struggling lineup by starting the left-handed-hitting Gavin Lux in left field over AJ Pollock.

Pollock had a superb regular season, batting .297 with a career-high .892 OPS, 21 homers and 69 RBIs, but he had one hit in his last 10 regular-season at-bats, went 0 for three with a strikeout in the wild-card win and looked overmatched at the plate Friday night, striking out twice and tapping back to the mound.

Pollock whiffed on a Webb slider to open the third. He began a fifth-inning at-bat by swinging wildly at a low-and-away slider that was a foot off the plate. He then swung through a slider on the inside corner and swung through an 86-mph changeup for strike three.

The bottom four batters in the lineup combined to go hitless in 12 at-bats with seven strikeouts. The Dodgers swung on 36 changeups and sliders from Webb and whiffed on 19 of them.

“I thought he had good command tonight, mostly to the glove-side to right-handed hitters,” Roberts said of Webb. “Then he went to the slider and changeup down below. We just chased a lot more than we should of, and if you don’t make adjustments, then they’re going to keep going to the well.”

Tommy La Stellar

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Many scoffed when the Giants signed Tommy La Stella to a three-year, $18.75-million deal in February. Why would a team coming off four straight losing seasons spend a decent chunk of change on an injury prone 32-year-old second baseman with little power?

That skepticism was validated by La Stella’s mediocre season in which he hit .250 with a .713 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, seven homers and 27 RBIs in 76 games and missed three months because of a left-hamstring strain and a right-thumb fracture.

But that contract didn’t look so bad Friday night when La Stella led off the bottom of the first with a walk and scored on Buster Posey’s two-run homer, singled in his next two at-bats and started a dazzling double play to end the top of the fourth.

La Stella, named to the American League All-Star team with the Angels in 2019 before fouling a ball off his front leg and fracturing his right-tibia in early July, back-handed Justin Turner’s grounder behind the bag and made a glove-flip to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who tapped second and threw to first.

“Tommy made the good part of that play,” Crawford said. “I just had to catch it and throw it.”

From asset to liability

Dodgers batter Cody Bellinger hits a double against the San Francisco Giants on Friday.Dodgers batter Cody Bellinger hits a double against the San Francisco Giants on Friday.

Dodgers batter Cody Bellinger hits a double against the San Francisco Giants on Friday. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Bellinger was one of the worst hitters in baseball this season, with a .165 average, .542 OPS, 10 homers, 35 RBIs and 94 strikeouts in 95 games, but Roberts praised him after a wild-card win in which Bellinger drew two walks, singled, stole two bases and scored a run in the 3-1 win over the Cardinals.

But Bad Belli was back on Friday night. Bellinger struck out on a 94-mph Webb fastball in the third inning and on an 86-mph changeup in the fifth.

With a runner on second and two outs in the seventh, Bellinger swung aggressively at a first-pitch changeup that was down and inside. He then swung through an 88-mph changeup for strike two. After taking a 94-mph fastball up and away, he swung through an 88-mph changeup near his ankles for strike three.

“You can’t bet on production, but you do give yourself a better chance when you stay in the strike zone,” Roberts said. “There’s a few guys who, in my opinion, took great at-bats all night long, but outside of that, there guys at the top and bottom of the order who didn’t take good at-bats tonight.”

Kick save and a beauty

The Dodgers might have taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the first had Webb, who played quarterback in high school but is not known to have played any ice hockey, not done a pretty good impersonation of an NHL goalie.

With Corey Seager on third and two outs, Justin Turner rifled a grounder up the middle that appeared ticketed for center field before Webb stopped the ball with his right foot. The ball trickled toward third base, but Webb had enough time to grab it and throw to first to end the inning.

“That was huge,” Webb said of his save. “The first thing I did was ask Craw and Tommy if anyone was gonna get it. They were like, ‘No.’ So luckily, it hit my shoe.”

Down shift

While the Dodgers failed to make any adjustments at the plate, Webb made several on the mound, throwing his changeup 38 times, his slider 29 times and his sinking fastball 20 times. During the regular season, Webb threw his sinker 834 times, his slider 614 times and his changeup 522 times.

“The game kind of dictated what we were going to do,” Webb said. “It seemed like they were looking for the spin and trying to hit the sinker. So we started going to the changeup a little more. I told [teammate Alex Wood] after the game, I think I threw 30 changeups in 33 pitches. It was just kind of the way the game went.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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