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SAN FRANCISCO – When the San Francisco Giants won three World Series titles in the five years from 2010 to 2014, they did so with young pitchers that blossomed at just the right time. Without Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, the Giants would not have risen to such heights.
As they began their final postseason quest on a chilly Friday night on San Francisco Bay, a fresh-faced right-handed man tamed the Los Angeles Dodgers and suggested something similar might develop. Logan Webb, 24, dominated seven and two-thirds goalless innings with a selection of fastballs, changeups and groundball-inducing sinkers, giving the Giants a 4-0 win in Game 1 of this division series of the National League.
It may seem presumptuous to discuss Webb in terms reserved for Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner. But the catcher, who stood behind the record for all three of those World Series titles, said afterward that he could see the parallels.
“It felt a bit like Lincecum against the Braves in 2010,” said Buster Posey, looking back at another division series, Game 1, when Lincecum tossed a full two-hit game in a 1-0 win over Atlanta.
At the time, Lincecum was 26 years old and had nearly four full seasons on his resume.
Webb was in the majors for parts of three seasons but was only able to establish himself in the rotation last year. Against the Dodgers, he became the youngest pitcher in San Francisco to start a postseason game since Bumgarner in 2012 – and the second youngest Giant to start Game 1 since Bumgarner’s 2012 National League Championship Series began when he was 23.
“I’m so impressed with him,” said Kris Bryant, whose solo home run in seventh place helped chase Dodgers starter Walker Buehler. “His first playoff experience and he was just out there pretending it was a backyard game. It was really fun to watch. Really funny.”
This feeling of developing something special has been picking up speed for a few months now. Webb’s 2.40 ERA since May 11 is the second best in the majors among pitchers with at least 20 starts, just behind Bühler (2.32). On Friday, he dwarfed his Los Angeles counterpart, hit 10 and didn’t leave.
Webb grew up in Rocklin, California, across Sacramento, about 90 minutes from San Francisco. He was the Giants’ fourth choice in the 2014 draft and grew up after the Oakland Athletics because his father liked that. He was also a huge fan of the NFL’s Raiders.
He came back from the operation on Tommy John and said he was legally blind. He was diagnosed with severe astigmatism in third or fourth grade, which causes blurred vision when he had difficulty seeing the ball.
But when he blossomed this summer, it was hard to believe that something was standing in his way. Webb, who went 11-3 in 27 games (26 starts) with a 3.03 ERA, ended the season with 20 consecutive starts without a losing decision. It’s the longest of its kind for the Giants since Jack Sanford in 1962.
“He has three top spots, which is definitely a luxury for me,” said Posey.
Webb allowed just two hits in the first five innings and received help from San Francisco’s formidable defense, including a smooth, inning double play in the fourth when second baseman Tommy La Stella put Justin Turner’s ground ball in the center and scooped the ball off his glove Brandon Crawford on the bag as La Stella’s momentum carried him towards midfield. The throw wasn’t perfect, but Crawford was able to rip the ball out of the air and take a snappy relay throw that reached first base just in time.
Webb described the piece as “sick”. Kapler said he thought “it was one of the better pieces we’ve made all year.”
And with that, the Giants have the Dodgers on their heels.