This year’s San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers division series was billed as a historic clash of dominant teams in the regular season, with the two clubs winning a record 213 games together in the previous six months. Overall, it lived up to that expectation: Every win by the perhaps still underrated Giants was followed by a series-tying statement from the Dodgers, leading us into Thursday’s all-or-nothing Game 5.
The direct stakes of the match are clear. A win for LA would propel it to last year’s NLCS rematch with the Atlanta Braves, which the Dodgers won (while erasing a 3-1 deficit) en route to the 2020 championship. about to return to the World Series, which would bring one of the game’s most unusual dynasties to perhaps its most unexpected chapter yet.
The symbolic stake can be just as high. Giants-versus-Dodgers is one of the sport’s oldest and biggest rivalries, with 2,539 matchups spanning more than 130 years of history. And this season’s battle felt very personal. Even if it took them 168 games, a Dodger win would be the culmination of Los Angeles’ season-long effort to track down its bitter rival in the North, destroying the pecking order we all assumed would exist between the teams. before the season started, would be reinstated. For San Francisco, a win would be final confirmation of who owned the rivalry, the division, and perhaps the entire league this season — expert picks and 106 Dodger wins doomed. Plus, ruining Los Angeles’ effort to defend the short-season title over a full schedule would leave Giant fans plenty to crow about for a long time to come.
And the big stakes for the postseason as a whole could hardly be higher. Before and after each game of the series, the Dodgers or Giants were the World Series favorites in our prediction model, with Games 3 and 4 causing that status to switch hands between Los Angeles and San Francisco (and back again):
|Chances of LA Winning||Chance of SF winning|
|Phase||Series||WS||Series||WS||Game winner||WS Favorite|
|After match 1||47||25||53||17||giants||evaders|
|After game 2||67||36||33||10||evaders||evaders|
|After game 3||33||18||67||23||giants||giants|
|After game 4||53||29||47||15||evaders||evaders|
Whatever happens in Game 5, the winner will likely be at the wheel of the World Series. Depending on winning the NLDS, the Dodgers would have a whopping 55 percent chance of winning the championship; for the Giants, that number would be 32 percent. In other words, both clubs’ odds (winning Thursday, conditionally) would exceed by 26 percent the current odds for the Houston Astros, the AL’s leading World Series contender.
In that sense, Game 5 is a mini-World Series in itself. If it’s not the actual winner of the championship — a lot can still happen between now and the end of October — it’s a battle to see who will have the title up for grabs (with apologies to the Astros, Braves and Boston Red Sox) .
That’s a lot for Logan Webb and Julio Urías, who duel with starters of the deciding game, although the two have a combined 0.71 ERA and 1.04 pitching independently in a few appearances in the series, each winning its only start . And there’s a lot more pitching where that came from, as we’d expect from the Nos. 1 (Dodgers) and 3 (Giants) pitching staffs in MLB by victories over substitutions this season. But perhaps the biggest question is which Dodger lineup will take the field for Game 5. In its two wins, Los Angeles has scored a total of 16 points; in its two losses, it has been completely shut out, losing by an aggregate margin of 5-0.
According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, the team that scored first has won 21 of 23 Giants-Dodgers matchups this season, so we can get an idea early on who the title favorites will be. Or Game 5 could go against that trend, as post-season elimination games are common. Either way, one of the biggest stories of the entire 2021 MLB season — the battle for California behemoths — will be resolved Thursday, with huge implications for the championship chase to follow.
Check out our latest MLB Predictions.