SAN FRANCISCO — The Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants have a baseball rivalry that spans more than 130 years in the history of their franchises and dates to their days in New York.
Everybody expected a playoff series for the ages between the current editions of these teams, and now they've got it.
Anything less than a winner-take-all Game 5 in their National League Division Series would have been a sports travesty, leaving Major League Baseball short-changed on the October stage.
That will happen Thursday night at Oracle Park, where the Giants — the NL West Division champions who won 107 games in the regular season — host the Dodgers — who are the reigning World Series champions but finished second in the West this year with 106 wins — with the prize a place in the NL Championship Series. The Atlanta Braves locked up their NLCS spot Tuesday, when they beat the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 4 of their NLDS.
The American League Championship Series is already set, with the Boston Red Sox visiting the Houston Astros on Friday night.
"This is what baseball wants," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "... All the series are done, and so we're going to be the only show in town. So if you have a pulse or you're a sports fan, you better be watching Dodgers-Giants."
The Dodgers staved off elimination with a 7-2 home win Tuesday night, and after a day of rest they'll try to advance by becoming the first team in this series to win two in a row. The Giants took the opener 4-0 before losing 9-2 in San Francisco, then bounced back with a 1-0 win Monday in Los Angeles before the Dodgers responded again.
It's the first time an MLB postseason series has had two teams with at least 105 wins, and it's not hard to understand why San Francisco third baseman Evan Longoria would prefer a best-of-seven set before one of these two teams has to go home for the winter.
"I feel like this may also be like a series or a moment where baseball may have to think about restructuring the way that the playoffs happen — 106 and 107 wins doesn't feel like a DS matchup," Longoria said last week. "... I just feel like there's two teams that win this many games, it seems early to match up us two."
Logan Webb, a 24-year-old right-hander, will become the youngest Giants pitcher to start a deciding game in the postseason when he makes his fifth start against the Dodgers this year. Webb threw 7 2/3 shutout innings, struck out 10 batters and allowed five hits in the series opener last Friday.
"I don't think we're going to spend a lot of time dissecting as a team this game. I think we're going to get on the plane, have an off day, a real off day," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said after Tuesday's loss. "We'll schedule our workout for a little bit later. We'll start getting ready for Game 5.
"I'm sure it will be a lively atmosphere. It's going to be nice to get back to Oracle and have the support of our fans. And, yeah, we're looking forward to it."
Roberts said before Tuesday's matchup that Julio Urías would get the call in the deciding game. Urías, who led the majors in victories and was the Dodgers' first 20-game winner since Clayton Kershaw in 2014, will be facing San Francisco for the seventh time this year. The left-hander allowed one run on three hits in five innings Saturday.
"When I take the mound, the message is to give 100% of me," Urías said.
The Giants won the regular-season series 10 games to nine, and with their playoff results included — the Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in a wild-card matchup to reach the NLDS — each team now has 109 wins in 2021. Their 24th and final meeting of the year will be truly decisive.
These teams that began meeting up in 1884 share a star-studded history of facing off in deciding games, from Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" to clinch the NL pennant for the Giants in 1951 to another such matchup in 1962 in which Willie Mays led San Francisco to victory. Now they meet again.
Said Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler: "I think it's only fitting."