Giants' secret weapon was something the Dodgers couldn't prepare for in NLDS Game 3
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.
The rules are clear: No 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.
They brought their own weather to Los Angeles: cold, raw, and, wind. Lots, and lots of wind.
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.
The Giants now lead the best-of-five NLDS 2-1, knowing that at worst, a deciding Game 5 will be at Oracle Park in San Francisco, with their ace, Logan Webb, on the mound.
Let the wind blow, baby, let it blow.
“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.
The Dodgers thought they had a home run in the sixth inning by Chris Taylor. Maybe another by Trea Turner 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's ball was hit pretty good."
Did Dodgers manager Dave Roberts think it was going out, too?
“Yeah," he said. “I did."
So did the 53,299 in attendance at Dodger Stadium and the nine Giants players standing on the field
“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. I mean, the conditions tonight were crazy. 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 comes into play. Tonight, I lost it on one pitch.’’
Then again, he completely lost his balance on one pitch too, stumbling off the mound on the second one of the game, with the wind blowing him off the mound.
It was shades of Stu Miller in the 1961 All-Star Game at Candlestick Park when the Giants pitcher was blown off the mound and 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. It was definitely a little bit more difficult environment to hit in and play in tonight."
Sure, the weather was the same for both sides. But if you ask the Dodgers, and, well, the Giants, too, it was clear who benefited the most by the bizarre conditions at Chavez Ravine.
“It was huge," Roberts said. “I think any other night, the CT [Chris Taylor] ball, the Gavin Lux ball, would have been home runs. …It would have been a different outcome. But those are the elements that both teams had to play with. And that's baseball."
The Dodgers not only watched potential homers die in the night, but a screaming line drive, 100-mph off the bat of Mookie Betts in the seventh inning. It should have been a run-scoring single. Instead, Crawford leaped high into the air, and pulled it down, sucking the air out of the ballpark.
“There's not a whole lot of time for anything really to go through my head," Crawford said. “Just catch the ball. That's all I'm thinking. I think it had a little bit of top spin on it, fortunately. It was right over my head, so I was able to just jump and hope that it goes 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 of the game. You can't think it was cold. You can't think the wind. Hey, it is what it is. You can't blame it on the wind because we lost the game tonight, it’s Mother Nature, you have to respect that."
The Dodgers, who won 106 games during the regular season, must now 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. The Giants will go with Anthony DeSclafani.
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. And they have definitely got the players to do it.
“So, hopefully, as a group, we come out, get on top, and silence this crowd here a little bit.’’
A silence that could last all the way until spring training.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Giants' secret weapon was something the Dodgers couldn't prepare for in NLDS Game 3