Dodgers haunted by chilling moments in blustery Game 3 NLDS loss to Giants


Los Angeles, CA - October 11: Los Angeles Dodgers' Gavin Lux reacts after a fly out.
Dodgers batter Gavin Lux reacts after what appeared to be a home run turned into a pop fly during a windy night at Dodger Stadium in a 1-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the NLDS. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

How windy was it?

Before delivering his fourth pitch, the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer literally blew off the rubber.

The game was briefly stopped for a ball boy to rid the field of flying garbage.

Flag poles bended. Light poles shook. Entire cups of soda flew off a press box table.

The greatest rivalry in sports made a mess of one of the greatest playgrounds in sports Monday night, with cold 45-mph gusts welcoming the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants to a littered Dodger Stadium.

And, naturally, the Dodgers reacted like any normal southern Californian to this Bay Area weather.

They were blown away.

Winter could soon be coming to Chavez Ravine after the Giants sailed on Evan Longoria’s fifth-inning homer to a shivering 1-0 victory, giving them a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five National League Division Series.

This gale-force continuation of the first postseason playoff series between the Dodgers and Giants in their 131 years of competition sent the northern visitors soaring while knocking the southern dudes flat.

“It sucks,” said Scherzer.

The Giants can advance to the National League Championship Series with a win here Tuesday night in a game that will surely force the Dodgers to start Walker Buehler on just three days of rest for the first time in his major-league career.

“Just win tomorrow,” said manager Dave Roberts.

Yeah, you’re right, 106 wins and a World Series championship defense could be gone like…whoosh

“Whatever it takes to win tomorrow,” Roberts said. “Then we’ll pick up the pieces after that.”

Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer, right, kicks dirt off the mound as San Francisco's Evan Longoria rounds the bases.

Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer, right, kicks dirt off the mound as San Francisco’s Evan Longoria rounds the bases following his solo home run in the fifth inning. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

There are indeed pieces everywhere, missed chances and literally blown opportunities scattered all over Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers continually frustrated in fighting the wind and the Giants pitching and themselves.

They lost to a Giants team that collected three hits. They lost despite Scherzer’s 10 strikeouts. They lost by swinging for just five singles against four Giants pitchers. They lost because their biggest moments were also their most blustery moments.

The ending spoke for the evening, as, with two out in the bottom of the night, Gavin Lux absolutely pulverized a Camilo Doval fastball that the wind grabbed and gently placed in center fielder Steven Duggar’s glove.

Lux stopped running between first and second base and just stood there, staring at center field as his teammates emptied their dugout, the last man to leave the field, another Dodger frozen.

“My stomach pretty much sank when he hit it,” said the Giants’ Evan Longoria. “I can’t believe that it didn’t (go out).”

Three innings earlier, with two out and a runner on first, Chris Taylor hit a similar ball that did a similar nosedive, a ball that was a game-winning home run last week against the St. Louis Cardinals, same hit, fat out.

“Any other night, the CT ball, the Gavin Lux ball would have been home runs … it was huge,” Roberts said. “Those two balls right there, it would have been a different outcome. But those are the elements both teams have to play with. That’s baseball.”

Then there was the piece that Mookie Betts left in a Giants glove, after the Dodgers appeared on the verge of tying the game in the seventh when two singles put runners on first and second. With two out. Betts hit a scorching line drive that was picked out of the air by leaping shortstop Brandon Crawford.

It was a championship moment. It was a Dodgers moment. And then it wasn’t. If their hopes of defending their World Series championship end against the Giants, they will end in Crawford’s glove.

For once, that wheezing sound that filled the stadium wasn’t the wind, it was a giant sigh.

Crawford shrugged. Betts screamed. It was another numbing moment in a night full of them.

“Just catch the ball, that’s all I’m thinking,” Crawford said. “I was able to just jump and hope that it goes in my glove.”

The Giants needed that ball to go into his glove. The Dodgers needed it to go into left-center field to score at least a run and potentially win the game. The Giants got their wind-blown wish, and now are just one game from one clamorous series victory.

“That’s what happens when two teams go at it,” said Crawford. “You need some great plays.”

The Giants benefited from the game’s greatest play, the one ball that outfought the wind, Longoria’s two-strike homer in the fifth inning that was blasted into the left-field pavilion.

Longoria was just thankful he was upright.

“The conditions tonight were crazy… a couple of time I thought I was going to get blown over by the wind,” he said. “I think if that ball didn’t go out tonight, I would have just cashed it in.”

Now it is the Dodgers on the verge of cashing it in, this landmark series typically swinging on this oddest of nights.

“I grew up here, I don’t remember a lot of nights at Dodger Stadium where the wind was blowing like that,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “Super strange.”

This breaks the Dodgers’ franchise record 16-game home win streak, but it’s not like the fans didn’t try. Seeing these teams in a postseason playoff for the first time, they were 53,299 folks screaming through their thick Dodgers jackets whenever a Dodger did anything, jeering every time the Giants did nothing.

“When you have 50,000 fans, it matters,” Roberts said. “Whether it’s in the box, on the mound …our guys or one of their guys has to make a pitch, and you start to feel that tension that fans create.”

The first show of passion occurred 30 minutes before the game, when the stadium hosts interviewed Dodger fans on the video board and fans noticed that sitting next to those fans were brave souls in Giants shirts.

“Booooo”

Andre Ethier, who spent his entire 12-year career as a Dodger and became a fan favorite, threw out the first pitch and further stoke the crowd’s hostility.

“Beat the Giants,” he screamed.

And so they tried, but the line drive was caught, and the fly balls were stopped, and the Giants pushed their season to the brink.

“Our Dodger fan base definitely wants us to definitely beat the Giants,” Scherzer said before Game 3. “It’s personal to them, so it’s personal to us. We want to win, we respect the heck out of the Giants and what they, how good they are, but you got to go out there and believe that you can beat them.”

On what could be the penultimate night of the 2021 season, that belief was eventually stopped in mid-air, dropped into leather, gone with the wind.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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