I probably wasn’t the only person excited about this game and the series as a whole. After most of a season of meaningless baseball, the Giants finally had the chance for a game to mean something and play spoiler to the Dodgers.
I didn’t complain much when the Giants lost 98 games last season. I haven’t complained very much about the nearly 90 games they’ve lost this season. All I asked was that they win these specific games. That’s all I needed for this season to be a success.
Things looked promising early on. The crowd was pumped up after the pre-game ceremony for the 2018 Willie Mac Award, which went to Will Smith. I don’t know that anyone was expecting this turn of events, as many assumed that either Hunter Pence would win a second time or that Gregor Blanco would get one before he retired, but Smith was a perfectly fine candidate. His niece even threw out the first pitch, right at the plate, wearing a teeny tiny little Smith jersey:
A promising start to a night that seemed like the first excitement the Giants have seen in a while.
Madison Bumgarner took the mound for the final time this season (unless something wild happens on Sunday) and he faced a little adversity in the first inning. After giving up a lead-off single to Enrique Hernandez (who he would not retire in this game), Justin Turner hit a line drive to right field that seemed like it was going to drop, but Hunter Pence made a sliding catch that got the crowd fired up. David Freese reached on a Brandon Crawford error, but Matt Kemp struck out, earning a huge roar from the crowd.
Nick Hundley drew first blood in the series with a solo shot in the bottom of the second. It was his tenth of the year and he hit it right to the cars in left field. This was fitting for the night, as Hundley was last year’s Willie Mac Award winner.
And if you turned the game off there, you probably had a much better night than the rest of us. Baseball, it seems, has figured out that the Giants’ Achilles heel is runners in scoring position. The Dodgers managed to turn a season-high five double plays against them tonight.
Honestly, it was quite the accomplishment. I really wasn’t sure the Giants were capable of it, but they really pulled together in the ninth inning to hit into that fifth double play and remind everyone just how much they aren’t going to miss the 2018 San Francisco Giants after this weekend.
The most egregious of which came in the fourth inning. Evan Longoria reached on an error by Freese, then Brandon Crawford singled to right field. Aramís García hit one right to Hernandez, who couldn’t quite put it away. Then for reasons known only to himself and the lord*, Bruce Bochy decided to pinch-hit Kelby Tomlinson for Austin Slater.
/takes a deep breath
Okay, I know Tomlinson has had good contact with the bases loaded, and had this worked out, no one would be questioning it. That said, Tomlinson’s first “swing” was a missed bunt attempt that made him look like a drunken sailor walking on dry land for the first time in months. Then he grounded into a double play to end the inning. Evan Longoria hit into two double plays in one game, proving that the Curse of Casey McGeehee is alive and well.
(Edit: In a shocking turn of events, it looks like Tomlinson came in because Slater was hurt:)
Slater strained his elbow on throw home, that’s why Tomlinson hit for him. He’ll have tests to determine how bad it is.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 29, 2018
Though it wasn’t just double plays that ruined their scoring opportunities. In the seventh inning Crawford and García were both on base for their third time of the night and Pedro Baez was brought in, because the game wasn’t going slowly enough. About an hour later, Baez had struck out the next two batters. Twenty minutes after that, Alex Wood struck out a third.
Bumgarner’s inability to get Hernandez out caused his first problem of the night, with Hernandez scoring on a Manny Machado single in the third inning. Then again in the fifth, Hernandez was on base when Turner took a fastball for a ride to left center field to give the Dodgers the two more runs they would need to win this game.
Bumgarner’s season was over after six innings in this game. He ends the year with a 3.26 ERA and an uncertain future. Though Bruce Bochy said before the game that it was his opinion that Bumgarner would be with the team next year, he would be one of the team’s more valuable trade assets if they decide to go for a rebuild.
Though it was a dreadfully boring game overall, tonight wasn’t completely devoid of entertainment. I would be criminally negligent if I were to leave this out of any recap about tonight’s game:
Police kicked a row of Dodgers fans out of AT&T Park, one in handcuffs pic.twitter.com/kxcg2r4qAK— Sam Hustis (@SamHustis) September 29, 2018
The Giants have two more chances to spoil the Dodgers’ postseason hopes, and they will try again tomorrow. The Rockies have already clinched a postseason appearance with their win over the Nationals tonight. They are one game over the Dodgers in the NL West.
Meanwhile the Cardinals are two games behind the Dodgers for the second Wild Card spot, so the worst the Dodgers can do at this point is tie.
Go, Rockies/Cardinals, go.