The first chant echoed through Oracle Park at 3:40 p.m. Friday, three hours before the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants took the field for the rivals’ most important meeting in at least a half-decade.
Some members of the Giants were stretching down the left-field line. The Dodger hadn’t yet emerged from the visiting clubhouse; just a member of the training staff stood along their dugout’s rail. The ballpark was empty. A man behind the wall in right field took centerstage.
“Go Giants!” the man shouted. “Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.! Wooooooo!”
Five pennants, one for each team in the National League West, flapped in the wind on a flagpole overhead. The pennants’ placements mirrored the division’s standings. On Friday, the Giants’ remained above the rest, though the Dodgers boasted the same league-leading record (85-49) and the best run differential in the majors.
By the end of the weekend, after three meetings, one club will take sole possession of the top spot. The first round went down to the wire Friday, with the Giants winning 3-2 in the 11th on a two-out throwing error by Trea Turner with the bases loaded.
The Giants scored the game’s first run in the third inning. That alone was nearly enough against the assortment of relievers the Dodgers deployed after David Price was scratched from his start. The Dodgers waited until the ninth inning, down to their last out, to tie the game. They almost didn’t get the opportunity.
After Justin Turner singled and Corey Seager doubled off Giants closer Jake McGee, Will Smith hit a sharp groundball right to second baseman Thairo Estrada. Turner broke for home immediately but stopped three-quarters down the base line when Estrada’s throw easily beat him. Turner retreated to third where Seager had advanced.
They were standing on the bag when Giants catcher Buster Posey tagged Turner. The third base umpire, however, called Seager out since rules stipulate the trailing runner is out in that situation.
Confusion ensued. Both Turner and Seager walked off the base thinking they were out. Posey, realizing something was amiss, rushed to tag Seager. But he was already out. Turner, meanwhile, stepped onto the base before Posey could reach him. Turner was safe and the Dodgers caught a break.
Chris Taylor then took advantage by lifting a bloop single to shallow center to tie the game. Closer Kenley Jansen then wiggled out a jam in the ninth inning after issuing two walks to bring on extra innings.
The 10th inning began with the slow-footed, 41-year-old Albert Pujols at second base following a pinch-hit appearance in the ninth. Pujols managed to lumber to third base on a flyout before pitcher Walker Buehler replaced him as a pinch-runner and scored the go-ahead run on Trea Turner’s sacrifice fly.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, down to two relievers, chose Andrew Vasquez to pitch the bottom of the frame. Vasquez, acquired from the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2019. Brandon Crawford welcomed him with a game-tying single, scoring Posey, who had started the inning at second.
Vasquez retired the next two Giants before he was pulled for Evan Phillips, the Dodgers’ last unused reliever. He struck out Curt Casali on the ninth pitch of the at-bat to extend the game.
The rivals began their three-game series having split their first 16 meetings in a 68-68 tie. They were tied in first in the NL West in September for the first time since 1997. The stakes — and chilly conditions — generated a postseason atmosphere. The pitching matchup, however, didn’t resemble an October encounter.
The Giants had Anthony DeSclafani, who hadn’t logged more than three innings in a start in three weeks, take the mound. He ended up giving up two hits over six scoreless innings. The Dodgers, meanwhile, threw a curveball, announcing that Corey Knebel, not Price, would start.
Roberts later indicated Price is likely headed to the injured list because of a sore elbow that hindered him in his last few appearances.
“This is not something that is too big,” Roberts said. “But I think, again, if you look at the couple of starts, his velocity’s ticked down and we just want to make sure just to reset him a little bit.”
Price’s absence would represent a step back just reinforcements are approaching to bolster the thin starting rotation.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.