SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants and Dodgers came into Friday night's game tied atop the National League West standings and tied in their own personal back-and-forth this season. Until 11:18 p.m. at Oracle Park, they had even scored an equal number of runs in 17 rivalry games this season.
It was at that moment that the Giants moved ahead by the slightest of margins. A lengthy replay review confirmed that a throwing error by Trea Turner had ended one of the wildest games of the year, giving the Giants a 3-2 win, and placed them back atop the NL West by one game.
The 17th matchup between the two best teams in the National League took four hours, 32 minutes, and ended with both teams fully out of options. The Dodgers were on their 11th and final pitcher, and because Alex Dickerson hurt his right leg a batter before Buster Posey's game-ending grounder, Gabe Kapler was preparing to put young ace Logan Webb in left field for the top of the 12th.
These teams aren't beating each other as much as they're outlasting each other at this point, and in the biggest game of the year the Giants were the ones having a walk-off celebration in their dugout.
"Obviously there was a lot of excitement about the potential that the call stood, but I would also say that there was some fatigue in the dugout," Kapler said. "I'm sure there was fatigue on both sides. At least some of the celebration was about the game ending and us getting ready to come back and play tomorrow's game."
These teams have two more games this weekend, but they'll have an impossible time living up to Friday night's all-timer.
The Giants led most of the night on the strength of Anthony DeSclafani's six shutout innings and Austin Slater's RBI single in the third. That one came when Kapler pulled one of his gutsier moves of the year, sending Slater up instead of LaMonte Wade Jr. with a lefty on the mound and the bases loaded.
That move worked, and so did just about every subsequent one until closer Jake McGee took over in the ninth. McGee couldn't keep the Dodgers off the scoreboard, kicking off a stretch in which Kapler and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts exhausted their options in search of the game-winning edge.
Both sides repeatedly failed to break the game open, but both sides also saw pitchers -- veterans and recent call-ups alike -- buckle down in the toughest spots. It appeared the Giants would once again come up short after loading the bases in the 11th, but Posey's grounder to second got the job done.
Turner's throw wasn't a particularly bad one, but Will Smith was playing first base for the first time in his career and he couldn't keep his toe on the bag. Posey spread his arms out as he hit the bag, but both sides knew a review was coming. As the biggest crowd of the year -- 39,338 -- chanted "Safe!" Posey and his teammates retreated to their dugout.
"From my vantage point it looked like he was off (the bag). I knew it was really close," Posey said. "I was hoping that it held up on replay."
A few feet away, Kapler kept one eye on the umpires as he contemplated having to put his best pitcher in left field. He ended up being spared, free to get back to the clubhouse and celebrate all the Giants did right.
This has been the roughest stretch of the season, but the Giants have found a way all year and they did again Friday. Six pitchers combined to allow just two runs to a lineup filled with All-Stars. The defense, an issue over the last couple of weeks, was spectacular, with Brandon Crawford throwing a runner out at home in the top of the 11th and Austin Slater having one of his best career games in center.
"I thought it was actually a really well-played baseball game," Kapler said. "A really well-pitched baseball game and a pretty gritty and tough game on both sides. I thought we played very clean defense throughout and that's one of the keys for us. I thought we were in the right place at the right time for most of the game.
"One of the things I've said these last games is we didn't make enough pitches, we didn't get enough big hits and we didn't play good enough defense. I think tonight it was just the opposite, right? We made enough pitches, just enough. We got just enough offensive performance and we played really good defense all the way around, and I think that's why we were able to pull this one out."
When it was finally over, the home dugout was full of cheers, smiles and even a lot of laughter. That was the only way the Giants could react after outlasting the Dodgers in a game Posey called one of the best he's been a part of in this rivalry. What there was not was the traditional good-natured beatdown of the walk-off hero. Posey said his teammates took it easy on him after it was confirmed that his dash to first had won the game.
"Thirty-four-year-old catcher," he pointed out. "They know they need to be careful with me."