LOS ANGELES — It wasn’t only the unusually windy evening that gave Southern California a chilly, blustery San Francisco feel on Monday. It also was that rare night when the Los Angeles Dodgers’ embarrassment of riches, and constant need to upgrade, unexpectedly bit them.
Alex Wood is a fierce, dogged left-hander who was employed by the Dodgers for most of the past six years, making 76 starts and throwing four scoreless innings in the World Series last autumn. But at 30, and having been bounced to the bullpen at times, he decided in free agency last winter that it was time to find an employer who would permanently keep him in the rotation.
So there he was starting for San Francisco in a pivotal Game 3 of this division series, matching up head-to-head with Max Scherzer and leading the Giants to a 1-0 win that pushed his old team to the brink of elimination. He threw four and two-thirds scoreless innings, baffling the Dodgers over 83 pitches — 56 strikes — and reinforcing the Giants’ decision to sign him last winter to a one-year, $3 million deal.
“He’s so incredibly competitive,” Giants Manager Gabe Kapler said. “He always feels like he’s the best option to get the next three hitters out. I love that about him.”
Nothing bothered Wood, including the strong winds that seemed to affect everyone else. Scherzer needed 25 pitches to get through the first inning before finding his groove and holding the Giants to three hits, including one Evan Longoria solo home run, over seven innings.
“The first inning, the wind was really pushing me toward home plate,” Scherzer said. “It was really strong tonight.”
It was a 96-mile-per-hour fastball up in the zone that the slumping Longoria somehow drove through what seemed like gale force winds.
“I know I got every bit of it as far as how hard I could hit a ball,” said Longoria, who was in a 1 for 35 rut when he stepped to the plate for the pivotal at-bat. “I wasn’t sure it would go out. The conditions were crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever stepped out of the box mid-at-bat as much as I did tonight.
“A couple of times I felt like I was going to get blown over by the wind. A lot of dust in your eyes.”
“Super strange,” said Kapler, a Southern California native.
Though Scherzer adjusted, the Dodgers’ hitters were never able to break through. Both Chris Taylor and pinch-hitter Gavin Lux smashed drives to center field in the ninth-inning, and Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said he thought both balls, especially Lux’s, were leaving the park.
Instead, they settled into the glove of center fielder Steven Duggar.
Brandon Crawford, San Francisco’s Gold Glove-winning shortstop, snuffed out the Dodgers’ other best chance, leaping to snag a Mookie Betts line drive with two out and runners on first and second in the seventh. That should have at least tied the game. Instead, Betts clenched his fists and howled in frustration.
Now, facing elimination in Game 4 here Tuesday, the Dodgers were considering bringing back co-ace Walker Buehler, who started the 4-0 loss in Game 1, for what would be the first short-rest start of his career. Otherwise, the option to start appears to be right-hander Tony Gonsolin.
“We’ve got to circle up as a group,” Roberts said. “Everything is on the table.”