LOS ANGELES — Major League Baseball rules specifically state that all foreign substances are prohibited in games, regardless if it’s a sweltering day at Busch Stadium in June or a postseason game at Dodger Stadium in October.
It is forbidden to use pine tar. No Spider Tack. No Gorilla Glue. No Sandpaper.
But, oh, those resourceful San Francisco Giants, looking for any possible edge they could get to bring down the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers, let their creative minds work their magic Monday night, and packed a secret weapon on this NL Division Series trip.
Los Angeles received their unique weather conditions: wind, cold and raw. Wind. Lots and lots.
We’re talking old Candlestick Park wind.
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When the evening was over Monday, and the Giants boarded their team bus to their Pasadena, California, hotel, they couldn’t stop smirking watching trash strewn across the parking lot.
The good ol’ San Francisco wind was their 10th man on the field at Dodger Stadium in a 1-0 victory that leaves the defending World Series champions on the brink of elimination.
It was the first time the Giants won a postseason game 1-0 on a solo homer since Game 3 of the 1923 World Series when Casey Stengel homered off Yankees pitcher Sad Sam Jones.
Now, the Giants lead the best of five NLDS 2-1. They know that, at the worst, a deciding game 5 will take place at Oracle Park, San Francisco with their ace Logan Webb on the mound.
Let the wind blow baby!
“The wind was definitely pretty crazy tonight,” Giants All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “I mean, it was a factor in the game, for sure. …
“I mean, I hardly even remember light breeze here most nights.”
On this night, the wind was constantly blowing during the game at 15- to 20-mph, with gusts at 40-mph, turning well hit balls into balls that don’t reach the warning track.
Chris Taylor, the Dodgers’ sixth-inning homer thought was theirs. Trea Turner could have added in the sixth. And, certainly, a game-tying, two-out homer by Gavin Lux in the ninth, only to gently fall into center fielder Steve Duggar’s glove.
“I thought it was hammered,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “There were several balls knocked down by the wind tonight. Lux hit his ball quite well.”
Was Dave Roberts, Dodgers manager, wrong to believe it was also going out?
“Yeah,” he said. “I did.”
The Dodger Stadium crowd of 53,299 and nine Giants players on the field were also there
“My stomach pretty much sank when he hit it,” Giants third baseman Evan Longoria said. “I couldn’t believe that it didn’t.
“But I guess it was our night.”
There were only eight hits in the game — none by the Giants after the fifth inning — but the only one that left any damage was Longoria’s home run in the fifth inning. When he stepped to the plate, his kids were in the stands, with one of them yelling, “Let’s go Daddy!”
With a family friend on the phone videotaping the moment for posterity, they watched Dodgers ace Max Scherzer’s 96-mph fastball leave the bat of Longoria at 110 mph, traveling 407 feet into the left-field seats.
“I mean, I knew I got every bit of it as far as how hard I could hit a baseball,” Longoria said. “But I wasn’t quite sure that it was going to go out. The conditions were insane tonight, I’m sure. I was thinking if that ball didn’t go out tonight, I might have just cashed it in.”
Scherzer gave up just three hits, struck out 10 and induced 21 swings-and-misses. But for the first time in 13 starts since joining the Dodgers on July 30, the Dodgers lost.
“You get to the postseason, you can always lose by one pitch,” Scherzer said. That is where the game comes in. Tonight, I lost it on one pitch.’’
Another pitch saw him lose his balance, and then he fell off the mound in the second half of the game.
The Giants’ pitcher, Stu Miller, was blown to the ground by Candlestick Park in 1961. He was called for a balk.
“I don’t think I stepped out of the box as many times in my career as I have mid-at-bat tonight,” Longoria said. “A couple times I felt like I was going to get blown over by the wind, a lot of dust in the eyes. The environment was difficult to enter and play in tonight.
The weather was pretty much the same on both sides. However, if you asked the Dodgers and the Giants about the unusual conditions at Chavez Ravine, you will see who was the biggest beneficiary.
“It was huge,” Roberts said. “I think any other night, the CT [Chris Taylor]Gavin Lux’s ball would have had home runs. …It would have been a different outcome. However, those were elements both sides had to deal with. That’s the beauty of baseball.
Not only did the Dodgers see potential homers go down, but they also witnessed Mookie Betts’ screaming line drive of 100 mph, which was thrown off his bat in the seventh. The home run should have been scored by Crawford. Crawford leapt into the air high and pulled it down to get the air out.
“There’s not a whole lot of time for anything really to go through my head,” Crawford said. “Just catch the ball. All I think about is that. I thought it was a bit too spinny, but that’s ok. It flew right above me, and I was able jump to make sure it went in my glove.
The Dodgers didn’t have another baserunner the rest of the night with rookie closer Camilo Doval pitching the final two hitless innings.
“Hey, it happens,” said Albert Pujols, who produced two of the Dodgers’ three hits off Giants starter Alex Wood. “That’s something that you cannot control. It’s part and parcel of the game. It is impossible to believe it was cold. The wind is not something you can imagine. You can’t blame the wind for what it does. You can’t blame it on the wind because we lost the game tonight, it’s Mother Nature, you have to respect that.”
After winning 106 regular-season games, the Dodgers must regroup. They are undecided who they’ll start in Game 4, but Walker Buehler is the favorite on short rest, with a mix and match in the bullpen, and Julio Urias available if there’s a Game 5. Anthony DeSclafani will be the Giants’ starting pitcher.
Considering these two teams have never played in a true postseason in the 131-year history of their rivalry, can you imagine the Giants’ thrill of celebrating and spraying champagne on the Dodger Stadium infield?
“We definitely know that they’re not going to roll over,” Longoria said. “They have been down before and figured out ways to come back. The players are there to help them.
“So, hopefully, as a group, we come out, get on top, and silence this crowd here a little bit.’’
It could be a silence that lasts until spring training.
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