On a day that started with a reminder that the individual results of baseball games don’t really mean anything, the Giants lost again and the Dodgers won the NL West. This also doesn’t really mean anything, at least not in a way that will feel different from the disappointment you’ll feel in 2019 or 2027 or 2039, seasons in which the Giants probably won't win the NL West either, if only because there are five teams, and theoretically all of them will get turns on top. The Giants had their turn, and then they cut in line again and again. There’s still a not-inconsequential chance they could cut again in a month, as much as you don’t want to read that.
The Giants collapsing like this isn’t a pain that defines you. It’s the silly pain of a sports loss, and it’s a stupid, dull pain. The Giants lost to the Padres, 4-3, in a boring game because that’s what they’ve been reduced to. That’s what they are now. They’re mostly incapable of winning a series, even against the teams struggling as much as they are.
And after watching today’s game in a fugue state, I can comfortably shrug my shoulders and say, unequivocally, "That sure was a baseball game, and it sure lasted three hours." There's a chance that we'll all do the same after the season, only it will be 486 hours, give or take.
The Giants lost the division because they can’t hit, they have an imperfect bullpen, and they’re unlucky. In this game, it was more about the lack of hitting than the other two, but it’s a cocktail that doesn’t often include euphoria as one of the side effects.
Did you notice that Charlie Culberson was the one who clinched the division for the Dodgers? The Giants have a World Series because of his indirect contributions, and maybe now he’ll be a part of the story for the Dodgers’ World Series run, too. It doesn’t have to be a metaphor or anything more than an unfunny coincidence. It’s worth noting, though, when you consider the entire second half has been about the baseball gods not returning our texts. Maybe they’re finally seeing someone else.
I’ll be honest, it’s hard to be too bitter about it, thinking about Vin Scully calling a division-clinching walk-off homer in his final game at Dodger Stadium. Maybe I’m just soft. Or maybe it’s an acknowledgment that while the individual results of baseball games don’t mean anything, the general existence of baseball means something, and it’s beautiful, and we just have to wait in line. Even if that means letting the stupid Dodgers have a moment from time to time. It’s a long, nasty, winding line that wraps around the cosmos — think of the waiting room from Beetlejuice — but the Giants will reach the front again. Maybe.
Just not this year. The Giants led the NL West by eight games, and then they didn’t. They lost on walk-off balks, they lost 1-0 games, they lost three-run leads, and they sure lost a lot of games like this one to the Padres, where they just couldn’t score enough, and they just couldn’t prevent the other team from scoring. Getting mad about a game, a season like this is like wanting to throw the controller when you die in a video game. Natural and silly at the same time. But it will seem sillier and sillier with the benefit of hindsight.
The Giants will play six more games at home, the first series against a bad team and the second series against a team that will be more focused on the Nationals. They still have a shot to win a chance at a playoff game to get into the postseason, and from there they have a chance to fluke their way into a three-win series against the Cubs, and from there they have a chance to fluke into four wins in seven games, and from there they have a chance to do it again. They probably won't. But they have a chance.
I'm okay with that. Maybe that's just the resignation of a loser, but I'm okay with that, too. The Giants had a great shot to win the NL West, and then they didn't. Now they still have an above-average chance to make the postseason somehow, which means they have the slightest chance to troll the world again.
I'm okay with that, too. It's only baseball, after all. It's a horrid, beautiful sport that means nothing and everything.
Now, go hug someone.