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At Least No One Cares About The Dodgers’ Opener Now

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 14: Corey Knebel #46 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after an out against against Darin Ruf #33 of the San Francisco Giants during the first inning in game 5 of the National League Division Series at Oracle Park on October 14, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Of all the best things that happened in Dodgers 2, Giants 1 last night, and there were many, the best of them was how little the hours of pregame power-agita over the Dodgers’ pitching strategy ultimately mattered. The game that promised us years of debate about Corey Knebel and Brusdar Graterol, and Julio Urias and Logan Webb for that matter, whipped past them all without so much as a middle finger and a tossed can of beer as it passed on the inside shoulder. The game came to land of all places in the extended arm of Max Scherzer, who wasn’t supposed to pitch at all, and at the cockeyed judgment of first base umpire Gabe Morales, who made a historic night a hysteric one, at the expense of Wilmer Flores and all his fellow Giants. And thanks from us to them all.

It is, though, the stuff of pure baseball that the pregame narrative of manager Dave Roberts’s decision not to start his best available pitcher in the biggest game of the year and go instead for the twisted gimmick of the double opener just because he was worried about Gabe Kapler’s love of matchup manipulation turned to be the reddest of herrings. The speculation on how much grief Roberts and baseball uberlord Andy Friedman would catch for getting too cute with the biggest game of the year turned out to be just so much wasted time. Managers outmanaging managers is a thing that players have a way of foiling far more often than not.

Knebel and Graterol slalomed around the Giants’ assembled troubles and the game became just another normal great Dodgers-Giants game until the ninth inning, when Morales made a newly compelling argument for robot umpires, or at least for actually defining in the rulebook what a checked swing looks like rather than asking umps to gauge a batter’s unknowable “intent.” It was also a perfect walk-off piece for Scherzer, a redemptive coda for Cody (The Out Who Walks) Bellinger, and a robbery that Giants fans can rage about for decades to come while they spit fernet at each other. The game is still vibrating as we speak, which is all one can ever ask of a game.

Best of all, though, is how the night beat the hell out of the pregame narrative, which is what baseball does when it’s on its game. The thing you know that will decide a game before the game almost never impacts the game, and that is how you know when a thing is truly great—when it slaps the face off everyone’s preconceptions.

But we should at least hold a moment of silent contemplation for Knebel’s 15 minutes of fame, and Graterol’s as well. Sometimes notoriety is seized, sometimes it is thrust upon you, and sometimes it misses you entirely because something far weirder is coming down the supercollider.

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