SAN FRANCISCO — Thanks to some more of the mighty swings, solid pitching and defensive gems that have defined their success in the past decade, the Los Angeles Dodgers headed home in prime playoff position after squaring things up with the San Francisco Giants.
Fittingly, this National League Division Series between NL West rivals has become a back-and-forth fight.
Los Angeles starter Julio Urías continued his reliable run on the mound and contributed an RBI single for his cause, Cody Bellinger and AJ Pollock delivered two-run doubles to break it open in the sixth, and the reigning World Series champions pounded the Giants 9-2 on Saturday night to even the series between MLB's two winningest teams this season at one game apiece.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts declared earlier in the day, "We're going to play this game essentially like a do or die," and they did just that by continuing to add on all game, including Will Smith's leadoff homer in the eighth.
Now, NL West runner-up Los Angeles — its 106 victories in the regular season not enough to catch the 107-win Giants — is going back to Chavez Ravine with a chance to ride this win and hand ace Max Scherzer the ball next.
"It's a good feeling," Roberts said. "It's interesting how the narrative changes from game to game. Right now, it's a three-game series, we have home-field advantage and we have Max on the mound. I like where we're at."
The best-of-five set shifts to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 on Monday night tied up, hardly a surprise considering how close these clubs played for months. The Giants edged the Dodgers for the division on the final day and took the season series 10-9 but were outscored overall 80-78.
"It's great to win one on the road," Dodgers star Mookie Betts said. "Julio pitched a great game. Any type of atmosphere like this, he's going to come ready to pitch."
Urías hit an RBI single in the second to give Los Angeles the lead, and Betts followed with a run-scoring single.
And those "Let's go, Giants!" chants were suddenly competing against the fired-up Los Angeles faithful's "Let's go, Dodgers!" in a boisterous, largely orange sellout crowd of 42,275.
"It was exciting to get the team going, I think they fed off that," Urías said through an interpreter.
San Francisco answered right back in the bottom half when Urías walked Wilmer Flores leading off and gave up Brandon Crawford's single. Flores advanced on Evan Longoria's deep fly to center field and scored on a sacrifice fly by Donovan Solano.
Urías hardly looked rattled. Leading up to his start, the 25-year-old left-hander stressed how facing these Giants would take an immense focus — and the 20-game winner sure looked the part from first pitch while outdueling All-Star right-hander Kevin Gausman.
Urías went unbeaten over his final 17 regular-season starts since June 21, going 11-0 during a stretch that included a Sept. 4 victory at a raucous Oracle Park, just like Saturday night. He struck out five and walked one over five innings this time, giving up one run on three hits.
"I've never seen him not having his stuff. He always has it," Giants infielder Wilmer Flores said.
Gausman, furiously chomping his bubble gum, had a tough act to follow after a gem by Logan Webb in his postseason debut a night earlier, when the right-hander and a pair of relievers held the slugging Dodgers to five hits in a 4-0 victory.
Trea Turner doubled leading off the sixth, and after Justin Turner struck out, Smith walked to chase Gausman after 5 1/3 innings in which he struck out seven and walked three.
Trea Turner also contributed two stellar defensive plays at second base, while Betts thwarted a potential Giants rally in the sixth with a perfect throw from right field to catch Flores at third. Flores took responsibility for the move.
"Sometimes you just do things you can't really explain," Betts said of his play. "And that was just one of them."
Buster Posey's sixth-inning single gave him 54 career playoff hits, most in Giants postseason history. He had three hits in the game.
"Obviously looking forward to turning the page on tonight's game and getting ready for Los Angeles," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. "It wasn't our best effort tonight. Dodgers just swung the bats better than us, made more pitches than us, made more plays than us.
"So as we've done all season long, we'll turn the page and get ready for an off day, an off day of preparation and get ready for Game 3."
Roberts went with Bellinger at first base — he played four games there this year and 19 in 2020 — in order to get Chris Taylor's bat in the lineup. Taylor hit the decisive two-run homer in the ninth inning of Wednesday's 3-1 wild-card win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Taylor doubled in his first at-bat with one out in the second and wound up 2-for-4 with a walk.
Bellinger came through, too. The 2019 NL MVP slumped to a .165 average in the regular season and was 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in this series before turning Game 2 into a rout with his double in the sixth.
"He wanted to use the big part of the field, and for him to get rewarded, it was a huge hit," Roberts said. "I think there was a big weight lifted off his shoulders."
Before that, there had been 75,528 occasions a player batted 50-plus times against a team in one season — postseason included — since 1903, and Bellinger's .038 average (2-for-53) versus the Giants was the lowest of any of those players, according to SportRadar.
Giants left-hander Alex Wood will start Game 3. San Francisco was 12-2 with Wood on the mound after a loss in the regular season. Scherzer will make his second postseason start after pitching one-run ball over 4 1/3 innings in the win over St. Louis on Wednesday night.