Before starting in with the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, it's worth thinking about what the national perspective is for a game like that. Think of Kate P. Orioles, waking up in the morning, getting the iPad that the paperboy threw on the porch, and checking in with the happenings around Major League Baseball. Flip swipe swipe swipe, good lord, Clayton Kershaw did what?
That fan wouldn't call the Giants bozos and laugh at them. It wouldn't be a search for what the Giants couldn't do. It would be a search for what Kershaw did and how he did it. He's one of the best pitchers to ever live, and he just pitched one of the best games you'll ever see. ESPN dug back 10 years and couldn't find another starter who got more swings and misses in his start. And it's not like the Giants are filled with burly, all-or-nothing, 23-year-old hackers from Planet Beef like the Cubs. They have the second-lowest strikeout rate in the National League. Kershaw just made them look like a team that couldn't make contact.
Kershaw was that good. And even with that, even with a modern-day Pedro Martinez combining command and stuff into a Molotov repertoire, the Giants were this close.
That's the GIF of the night, of the series, of the season. The Giants were inexplicably in the game. Despite an all-time great pitcher throwing one of his most memorable games, despite a roster with a thousand different Band-Aids haphazardly applied over the thousand-and-one puncture wounds, they were still in a position to win the game. Why was the batter on the team in the first place? Injuries. How's he doing, overall? Surprisingly great. Why were the Giants just a run behind? Some ground-attack nonsense followed by two of the best two-strike hits you'll ever see from Matt Duffy and Buster Posey. And what happened when they got the hanging slider they needed with the tying run in scoring position in the ninth inning?
Aw, raspberries. Just missed it.
That's the story of the 2015 Giants in one GIF. They were picked off, and then they were (almost) picked off again. Angel Pagan bobbled another ball. Ehire Adrianza tagged a helmet without a head in it. There was another unfortunate Mike Winters call. Bruce Bochy was ejected again, and his replacement decided to empty the catcher cannon in an attempt to score another run.
Yet they still made Kershaw throw a season-high in pitches, still made Don Mattingly pace back and forth, still made the game exciting in the ninth inning. And with two runners on and a chance to tie the game with a broken bat, or win it with an extra-base hit, they fought their way into the pitch they needed.
Just missed it. I've been watching that GIF for about an hour now, and I'll be here when you leave.
All one-run losses are bullshit. There's a just-miss like that in every single one of them, a woulda coulda shoulda that keeps you from sleeping with the lights off. The Byrd foul ball stands out because of when it happened, to whom it happened, why he was there in the first place, the pitcher on the mound, the stakes, and the regrettable result.
The Dodgers had a .220 hitter hit a solo homer on Tuesday night, and they had a .220 hitter hit a solo homer on Wednesday night. The Giants haven't hit a home run since Travis Ishikawa against the Cardinals in the 2014 NLCS. That's the difference, and it's why the Giants are suddenly incapable of winning a one-run game (eight out of their last nine). Kershaw still had to pitch his best to win, and even then, the Giants just missed it.
Just missed. Aw, raspberries.
I've watched bad Giants teams that know they smell, teams that realized in the middle of a job interview that they forgot to put on deodorant. By this point in those seasons, I wanted to yell at them when they fell out of the race. Every team falling slowly and painfully out of a postseason race is the worst team of all-time, at least while it's happening. Except for this team, though. I'm pretty sure I have a fantastic idea of who the Giants are, and what kind of team they can be with a few tweaks. And when they stretch Kershaw as far as he'll let them in his grandest demi-god moment, well, I'm proud of the weirdos.
The losses that made me want to throw things are still obscene. Ugh, that one against the Braves at home. That walkoff against the Marlins from ... man, I can't even remember the guy's name. Freezing atop the arcade while watching Chase Anderson outduel Madison Bumgarner for no particular reason. Those are the losses that make me angry and what-iffy.
Getting beat by Kershaw at his best while rigor mortis is already setting in on the season, but losing by millimeters in the ninth inning? I'm okay with that. Next year might be just as painful -- there's never a guarantee that it won't be more painful, not with baseball being a charming sociopath and all -- but this isn't the kind of loss that makes me bitter. Just wistful and a little mopey. If the slogan of the 2011 Giants was "They Broke Our Hero" and the slogan of the 2013 Giants was "What Is This Crap, No Seriously", the 2015 Giants have a slogan of "Just Missed."
There was no Brett Pill in this game. There was no surprise Eli Whiteside homer against Clayton Kershaw, no Brandon Hicks. There was only pain. And yet the Giants were that close. I'm not sure if we'll ever appreciate just how strange it is that they were this close in the first place, not just for the game, but for the season.