Why the Dodgers’ impressive sweep from the Giants looks enduring

LOS ANGELES — Late in the sixth inning on Aug. 22, 2012, Brandon Crawford replaced Pablo Sandoval on the infield, giving the Giants their best defensive lineup as they tried to hang on for a win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Crawford slipped into the lineup between Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence, who had been acquired a few weeks earlier. He saw Matt Cain finish off a strong start and Core Four members Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla pitched the final two innings. After the bottom of the ninth, he hit manager Bruce Bochy, receiver Buster Posey and first baseman Brandon Belt, among others.

Aside from Crawford and Clayton Kershaw, every player on both sides of that score has moved. They are spread around golf courses and broadcast booths. Like Crawford and Kershaw, almost all are now raising multiple children.

Just about everything about the Giants has changed in recent years, but Crawford remains, and this weekend he watched a group that looks set to return to those consistent winning ways. The Dodgers have been atop the division at the end of almost every month since that game, but this weekend the Giants swept them for the first time at Dodger Stadium since that three-game series in 2012.

It was the kind of weekend that allows everyone to dream of what lies ahead. Like the Dodgers of the past decade, the Giants are a perfect mix of veterans with extremely talented rookies, and for the first time in a long time, that feels sustainable.

“We do it with veterans, with young people, good pitchers, good defense, good hitters,” Crawford said after a 7-3 victory. “We play really good baseball. It’s obviously a lot of fun.”

The final game of the sweep was won thanks to a resilient performance from ace Logan Webb, a two-run single from rookie Luis Matos and plenty of opportunistic moments for a roster that spent three days profiting from every mistake made by the Dodgers. .

Sunday’s win was the most normal of the three, but all three showed Crawford something about the group, which went 6-0 on the road trip and moved into second place in the NL West.

“To fight (Friday) and take the lead and lose the lead and still come back and get that win, I think that gave us even more confidence than we already had, just knowing we could come here and play a really good team at the Dodgers and I come back and beat them,” Crawford said. “And then with the game yesterday, scoring 15 points and shutting them out, I think that made us feel even better with the group of guys we have here.”

With 22 wins in their last 31 games, including three straight sweeps, the Giants are back in the playoffs table. But for as much fun as they had on Sunday – and will have on the flight home – they know it’s early days, and they know their path this year is still far from clear.

If the Dodgers had any long-term concerns, they didn’t show up on Sunday. They brought the tying run to home plate in the ninth and minutes later Kershaw and other veterans came out into left field to play happily with their kids. They are injured more than any team in the division, even the Giants, with Max Muncy, Julio Urias, Dustin May and more on the IL. But they expect to get most of their contributors back in the next few weeks.

Neither side of the rivalry is even at the top of the division yet. The top spot belongs to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have quietly cycled through team after team and will make their 2023 first appearance at Oracle Park next weekend. First, the Giants will play four against the San Diego Padres, preseason favorites, who have won seven of their last 10 games and still have the most talent in the division if they can ever put it all together. .

It won’t be an easy week, but the Giants look much better equipped than a month ago. Matos is here to stay, and after scoring seven points in his first four games, he should get some of the biggest cheers when the Giants return home on Monday. Patrick Bailey, Blake Sabol, Ryan Walker and Tristan Beck all had great weekends during their first visit to Dodger Stadium. Casey Schmitt finished his with a fastball to the forearm, but an X-ray was negative and the Giants are hoping he can avoid the IL.

Rookies are a reminder of how quickly fortunes can change, and Crawford has seen it before. He was part of the last real wave, joining Belt as cornerstones of the franchise a few years after the arrival of Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner.

Crawford has been around long enough to know that a good month means nothing. But he sees many signs that it’s different, from an improved defense to a bullpen that blocks opponents like the Core Four did, to a formation that continues to plug holes and move, passing the baton until the job is done.

As Crawford spoke, a veteran walked through the clubhouse and chanted “sweep, sweep, sweep.” Teammates smiled as they ate donuts and waited to board the team bus.

“For the most part, we play good all-around baseball,” Crawford said. “Obviously we hope we can enjoy that feeling and the way we play throughout the season.”

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