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Aside from three big bats, Giants went silent at plate in NLDS

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The 2021 San Francisco Giants had perhaps the most collaborative offensive attack in MLB history. They had a record 17 different players hit at least five homers, and they also set MLB records for pinch-hit plate appearances and pinch-hit home runs.

They came at you in waves, with Gabe Kapler and his staff favoring platoons and matchup advantages and making the "line change" a big part of their in-game strategy. It became normal to see just about the entire roster get into every game, and that's how Kapler wore opposing pitching down. 

It led to 107 wins, but in Kapler's first playoff series as a Giant, the attack became surprisingly traditional. In the postseason, the Giants lined up behind their three biggest stars. The rest of the lineup wasn't able to provide support.

Buster Posey, Kris Bryant and Brandon Crawford combined to go 19-for-57 in the five-game series, with four runs, three homers and six RBI. If you take out the starting pitchers, the rest of the roster was 10-for-93 with six runs, two homers and four RBI. 

In the biggest moments, the deep attack had trouble with top-notch pitching, and that's the main reason the Giants are packing up their clubhouse today

"I thought we had some quality at-bats throughout the series. At the end of the day, they made more pitches than us," Kapler said. "Yeah, I mean, this is what the postseason is all about. You're going to face the best pitching. Everybody's going to be well rested. You're not going to get through the best pitchers in a 'pen and then get to poorer pitchers, because they're all good."

 

In the five-game series, the Giants twice faced Julio Urias, a 20-game winner, and Cy Young candidate Walker Buehler. Max Scherzer, another Cy Young candidate, started the other game and got his first career save in the clincher. The main arms to come out of the Dodgers' pen were some of the best any team will use this postseason. Kenley Jansen is throwing as well as he ever has, Blake Treinen might be the nastiest reliever in the game. Brusdar Graterol, Joe Kelly and Corey Knebel ranged from 97 to 102 mph. 

The Dodgers have the best pitching staff in baseball, and the Giants had a .211 on-base percentage and .302 slugging percentage against those arms over five games. Posey and Crawford have come through on big stages before, but Bryant was a pleasant surprise after a quiet end to his season. He reached base in nine of his 16 plate appearances, but other key pieces weren't heard from. 

Mike Yastrzemski was 0-for-13, LaMonte Wade Jr. was 1-for-10 and Alex Dickerson struck out in three of his four at-bats. Those three, plus Steven Duggar, combined to go 1-for-30 with 13 strikeouts. That was a fatal blow for a lineup facing a righty-heavy staff with Brandon Belt on the sidelines. 

The veteran right-handers struggled, too. Evan Longoria was 2-for-17, although one of those hits did win a game. Wilmer Flores went 1-for-12 and Darin Ruf was 1-for-11, with his lone hit being the only run of Game 5. 

Ruf, though, is a perfect example of why it's so difficult to figure out where it went wrong for some hitters in a short series. Before his homer on Thursday, he hit two balls with expected batting averages over .500 and a combined distance of nearly 800 feet. In Wade's final at-bat of the series, he nearly yanked a walk-off into McCovey Cove. Scherzer's pitch got just enough in on his hands.

There's a fine line between winning and losing in any postseason series, and particularly in the one we just watched. With a break here or there, the Giants are preparing for the Atlanta Braves today. On the other side, the Dodgers would argue that the worst luck for either team over five games was Gavin Lux's ball getting knocked down by the wind, and before Game 5 went into the ninth, Chris Taylor twice gave Logan Webb a scare with deep fly balls to left. They could have had more going at the plate, too, but with their pitching, they didn't quite need it. 

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"The arms that they have every single at-bat -- starting pitching, bullpen -- are some of the most elite arms in the game," Ruf said. "You can have an approach, you can have a game plan, but executing it against that level of ability is obviously very hard. I think we had great approaches, great game plans, and obviously, yeah, you need balls to fall. You need breaks. In a one-game winner-take-all, it doesn't matter if you have great at-bats, you need positive results."

 

In the end, the Dodgers did more at the plate, and that's why they're on their way back to the NLCS, with the Giants left to figure out how they can put together a more potent attack the next time around. 

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