Webb silences Dodgers in brilliant playoff debut

  • Senior Writer for ESPN The Magazine
  • Columnist for ESPN.com
  • Author of five books (3 NYT best-sellers)

SAN FRANCISCO — Logan Webb pitched one of baseball’s most epic postseason games in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, and he did it by forcing the Dodgers to turn into their own worst enemies.

Webb was masterful in his first career postseason start, mixing a diving changeup and a slider that ran away from right-handed hitters and then ran just a little bit more. But perhaps Webb’s biggest advantage was his ability to use the Dodgers’ aggressiveness and uncharacteristic eagerness to stray out of the strike zone against them.

“For me it wasn’t the stuff necessarily, because we’ve seen that essentially all season long,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said after Friday’s 4-0 victory. “It was the composure, it was the demeanor, it was the poise on the big stage with an incredible atmosphere. He just kind of channeled all that into his performance.”

Webb, 24, emerged as one of the best starters in baseball during the second half of the Giants’ 107-win regular season, but he — much like the team he plays for — has managed to remain relatively anonymous. His performance in Game 1, in which he threw 7 2/3 shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out 10, figures to change that.

Just 30 times in baseball history has a starting pitcher in a postseason game pitched at least 7 2/3 shutout innings, allowed fewer than five hits and struck out 10. But Webb went one better; he’s one of only four pitchers, along with Cliff Lee, Jake Arrieta and Trevor Bauer, to do all of that and add in zero walks.

“He’s got three pitches that are elite, and so it’s definitely a luxury on my end to pick and choose,” catcher Buster Posey said. “He’s got the ability to get guys out a lot of different ways, and it’s a recipe for success, that’s for sure.”

Webb’s secondary pitches kept the Dodgers continually off-balance, and the bottom four in the Dodgers’ order finished 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts.

“To be honest, we just didn’t make adjustments,” Roberts said. “He had great stuff, but we just chased a lot more than we should have. But yeah, credit to Logan.”

Kapler’s decision to start Webb over Kevin Gausman in Game 1 was a mild surprise despite Webb’s second-half dominance. Gausman himself had said before the game, “For me personally, I think Webby deserves it.” Webb finished an 11-3 regular season by pitching seven innings and hitting a home run against the Padres in game 162 for the Giants, clinching the NL West on the final day of the regular season and sending the Dodgers to the wild-card game.

“I don’t think there’s any question the last game of the season for Logan carried over into this one,” Kapler said. “He seems to be grabbing momentum from the previous start to kind of propel him in the next one.”

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