A defeated Walker Buehler put his hands on his knees and looked away, down at the ground, as the hysterical, orange-towel-waving crowd celebrated along a frigid San Francisco Bay. Game 1 of the National League Division Series wasn’t over. The Dodgers had two turns to claw back, six outs for the offense to show some semblance of life and topple the San Francisco Giants on Friday. It just felt that way.
Buehler understood the moment. Kris Bryant’s solo home run to left field to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning put the Giants ahead three runs and three runs felt like 30 for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers’ offense — a formidable entity on paper even without the injured Max Muncy — was nowhere to be found at Oracle Park. Logan Webb was toying with them in his first career playoff start and the Giants’ bullpen, perhaps the best in the majors, loomed. Runs were precious, and the prospect of the Dodgers scoring any seemed remote.
The Dodgers ended up not scoring any, falling 4-0 in the first postseason game in the fabled rivalry’s history. They produced five hits. A Dodger didn’t reach third base after the first inning. The bottom four spots in their lineup went 0 for 12 with seven strikeouts. They’ve scored three runs in 18 innings across two games thus far this postseason.
While Buehler surrendered three runs over 61/3 innings, Webb needed just 92 pitches to log 72/3 scoreless innings. He gave up five hits and recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts without a walk. In 28 at-bats against Webb, the Dodgers forced him to throw more than four pitches three times. He didn’t throw more than six pitches to a single hitter.
In all, the Giants needed just 103 pitches from Webb, submariner Tyler Rogers and rookie fireballer Camilo Doval for the 27 outs. It was the first time the Dodgers were shut out in the postseason since Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. They were shut out five times in the regular season.
Buehler entered Friday with a 2.35 earned-run average in 12 playoff starts. Last postseason, he surrendered five runs in 25 innings over five starts to solidify his reputation as a big-game hurler.
The Giants presented a unique challenge. No team is more familiar with Buehler than San Francisco. The right-hander faced the Giants six times this season. He surrendered five runs (three earned) in the first five matchups, but he gave up six over three innings Sept. 5 at Oracle Park.
A month and three days later, Buehler stumbled out of the gate. He issued a leadoff walk to Tommy La Stella in the first inning. Three batters later, he fell behind 3-0 to Buster Posey.
Buehler remained careful, throwing a 96-mph fastball up and away. Posey was given the green light and smashed the pitch anyway, launching it over the brick wall in right field for a two-run home run.
It was the first home run Buehler has given up on a 3-0 pitch as a major leaguer. It was just the second time in his previous 10 playoff starts that he yielded more than one run.
Buehler wasn’t particularly sharp after that, giving up a single in each of the next four innings. But he worked around the traffic. He received help in the second inning when shortstop Corey Seager and second baseman Trea Turner turned a nifty inning-ending double play. It wasn’t until the sixth inning that Buehler retired the side in order.
And yet Buehler gave up just two runs through six innings. He kept the Dodgers within striking distance, within one swat of changing the game’s complexion.
But Webb didn’t relent. The 24-year-old right-hander used the generous outside corner plate umpire Carlos Torres gave him to his advantage.
He dotted the fringes of the strike zone with his three-pitch mix, baiting an overzealous bunch into bad swings. He got a boost in the fourth when second baseman La Stella and shortstop Brandon Crawford executed an inning-
ending double play that eclipsed Seager and Turner’s work a little earlier.
With it, Webb smoothly operated with ruthless efficiency in the biggest game of his life.
He completed the inning by getting Cody Bellinger to swing through a changeup for his 10th strikeout on his 77th pitch as the Dodgers stranded a runner on second base in consecutive innings.
Moments later, Bryant, the former Chicago Cubs slugger acquired midseason to bolster the 107-win Giants down the stretch, smashed a 3-2 fastball over the wall in left-center field.
Buehler faced one more batter before Dodgers manager Dave Roberts emerged to pull him, ending a night when good wasn’t good enough.
Dodgers reliever Alex Vesia then gave up a solo home run to Crawford in the eighth, providing the final margin for the Giants’ win.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.