LOS ANGELES — The Giants and Dodgers found themselves in lockstep throughout the entire 2021 season, with their epic race for the National League West title coming down to the final day of the regular season.
The 107-win Giants ended up outlasting the 106-win Dodgers for the division crown, but Los Angeles ultimately triumphed when it mattered most, winning a thrilling NL Division Series that ended with Wilmer Flores’ controversial check-swing call in the decisive Game 5 at Oracle Park last fall.
It’s still early, but the Giants and Dodgers appear poised for another tight race given their mutual championship aspirations in 2022. Their first matchup since their NLDS clash last year didn’t suggest otherwise, with the Giants falling, 3-1, in Tuesday night’s series opener at Dodger Stadium.
Carlos Rodón tossed six innings of two-run ball in his fifth start of the year, but he was outdueled by fellow left-hander Julio Urías, who fired six shutout innings to hand the Giants their fourth loss in their last five games.
The Giants’ superior depth allowed them to emerge as an unlikely behemoth that ended the Dodgers’ reign atop the NL West last year, but that strength has been tested in recent weeks due to a rash of injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak. They flew to Los Angeles missing several regulars, including Mike Yastrzemski, Brandon Belt, LaMonte Wade Jr., Evan Longoria and Tommy La Stella.
The Giants felt those absences on Tuesday, as their depleted lineup mustered only five hits against Urías and four Dodgers relievers. San Francisco didn’t get on the board until Urías left the game, with pinch-hitter Luis González delivering a sacrifice fly off lefty Alex Vesia that cut the Dodgers’ lead to 2-1 in the seventh. Still, Los Angeles tacked on an insurance run in the eighth after Hanser Alberto doubled and scored on a wild pitch.
The good news for the Giants is they should be getting a couple of core pieces back soon. Manager Gabe Kapler said Yastrzemski, who has been out since testing positive for COVID-19 on April 25 at Washington, D.C., will be eligible to return on Wednesday.
Wade, who missed the first month of the season with a left knee injury, played in his sixth rehab game for Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday night and could also rejoin the Giants on Wednesday. His bat certainly looks ready, as he hit .294 with one home run and six RBIs for the River Cats.
Wade likely could have been activated on Tuesday, but the Giants opted to have him play one more game in Sacramento since the Dodgers sent a left-handed pitcher to the mound in Urías.