It was an old-fashioned, almost operatic, ugly-off. Two teams, squaring up for a showdown in the dusty streets outside of an old saloon, trying to see who could play uglier. Each team was in fine form, showing off boils and moles with previously unseen hairs jutting out. This was less a game to help decide a division, and more like a primer on what not to do should your team reach the Little League World Series.
The Padres gave a passing effort to lose the game. They left baserunners on base as if their pockets were filled with powdered anthrax. They gave up a game-deciding hit to Pedro Feliz, who picked a fine time to not look lost at the plate. They tried hitting into outs at home, but the Giants just wouldn't let them. Couldn't let them. They had worked too hard this season at being a frustrating team to blow it all by sneaking into contention.
From the start, the ugly-off was a mismatch. The Padres tried to come into Mays Field and out-ugly the Giants? Pshaw. The Giants were in peak form, as Randy Winn couldn't complete a ninth-inning sacrifice bunt, Mike Matheny was caught with his defensive wizard's robe down, Lance Niekro was both stumbling around the bases and kicking balls around, and Angel Chavez was left as the last gasp for the whole club. It was a game filled with missed chances and bad baseball, but it was our game to win. Four games back in the division isn't insurmountable, not in the slightest. It would have been a great victory.
It was looking like the ugly-off was going to be decided by the judges until the Giants came through with the knockout. The Giants have a mistake with legs taking the ball for every ninth-inning lead. The Padres have a closer who has been effective his entire career, even when his throwing arm was being held together with a combination of cobwebs and sap. That was the difference. The Armando Benitez who starred for the Marlins last season was an unrealistic expectation, but it seemed a decent gamble to overspend for a reliever who had never had a down season. Once he donned the orange and black, however, his velocity dropped and his control became dodgier than it ever had been. Then he suffered a serious injury. Now he's back, and blowing saves like he gets a bonus for it.
Pretty good idea at the time. Currently, an awful mistake. There are two more years to salvage this contract, and my guess is Benitez has better days ahead. That doesn't help now, though. With an 0-2 count in the ninth inning, and a two-run lead, the Giants found a way to lose. The oft-repeated stat is that the Giants have only played (x) meaningless games since Brian Sabean took over, where (x) represents an impressively low number. The only way the games this season have had meaning is that they've repeatedly made all of us die a little bit inside. That means something, I guess.
Here's where I would tie the whole post together with an ending if I weren't so disgusted.