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Hunter Pence takes a bow, the Giants take a dive

On a day that Hunter Pence will remember for the rest of his life, the Giants failed to do anything memorable.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

It didn’t take long for the drama to be sapped from this game. Andrew Suárez issued a walk to Chris Taylor to lead off the game, and he got Justin Turner to 0-2, but couldn’t put him away. Turner eventually battled to 3-2, and eventually doubled to right field allowing Chris Taylor to score from first. David Freese immediately followed that up with a single to bring in Turner.

Before Suárez could record an out, the Dodgers had taken a 2-0 lead. Suárez struggled again in the second when he gave up a lead-off single to Matt Kemp. He walked Brian Dozier to make it runners at second and third with one out. The Giants only escaped when Suárez started a nice double play on a bunt attempt from Rich Hill.

Suárez couldn’t make it out of the third inning as he couldn’t command any of his pitches. 9 of the 14 batters he faced reached base, and he wasn’t giving up flares or broken bat hits either.

Hunter Strickland came into relieve Suárez, and Strickland did what he always does with runners on base: he allowed them all to score. He immediately gave up a bases clearing double to Kemp to make it sixth to nothing. After that, Strickland struggled to find his release point. He slung fastballs wide, eventually throwing one to the backstop to bring in the Dodgers seventh run. When Strickland could find the strike zone, he found too much of it as evidenced by Dozier’s two-run dinger.

The only batter Strickland retired was Rich Hill. As he walked off the mound, what few Giants fans remained sent him into the offseason with a chorus of boos. I’m generally an anti-boo person. We, as baseball fans, tend to think, “What have you done for us lately?” while forgetting that this sport is extremely difficult, and the competition is the best in the world.

That being said, the most memorable things Strickland has done in a Giants uniform have been regrettable. Today, he pitched a garbage third of an inning, but that’s not the worst of it. In the 2014 World Series, whether out of ignorance or blatant racism, he referred to a person of color as “Boy.” In 2017, he threw at Bryce Harper because of a three-year grudge and simultaneously ended Mike Morse’s career. This year, Strickland missed two months because he couldn’t emotionally handle getting beat by a rookie who ended the year under the Mendoza line.

Strickland earned his boos.

After Strickland came Chris Stratton who took this opportunity to tank his ERA. Stratton gave up five runs in two innings including a two-run shot into the cove off the bat of Max Muncy.

Derek Holland came in after Stratton, and Holland pitched two consecutive scoreless innings. Holland even threw the first 1-2-3 inning since the seventh of Friday’s game.

Steven Okert, who had a 0.00 ERA on the line, came in to pitch the eighth and tore through Kiké Hernández, Yasiel Puig, and Chase Utley. In what was Utley’s final regular season at-bat—or depending on how the week goes for the Dodgers, his final at-bat ever—Okert struck him out.

It appeared that Okert would finish the year with a 0.00 ERA, but since he had been the only pitcher aside from Holland to pitch a perfect inning, Bochy used him to finish out the season. On the first pitch of the ninth inning, Austin Barnes hit a home run. That swing of the bat raised Okert’s ERA all the way to 1.23 on the season.

Meanwhile, the Giants struggled to make solid contact against Rich Hill. In the first inning, Hunter Pence struck out after getting ahead 0-2, Joe Panik couldn’t get a ground ball past Dozier, and Evan Longoria popped out on a high fastball.

Brandon Crawford was the first Giant to get the ball out of the infield when he hit a popup to left field. The Giants didn’t get a baserunner until the fourth inning when Panik hit a hanging curveball up the middle. By that point, the Dodgers had taken a 12-0 lead.

The Giants managed just two baserunners all day. It didn’t matter if this was a 15-0 game or a 1-0 game, the offense perished a long time ago.

Despite this game being an unwatchable nightmare, there are two positives to be gleaned from today. First, the Rockies similarly trounced the Nationals today, so the Dodgers have not yet won the National League West. They could be forced to fly home tonight, play in Los Angeles tomorrow, fly to Chicago or Milwaukee and play another game there on Tuesday. If they make it through that, they’ll have just one day to recuperate before the NLDS. Even if the Dodgers are clearly the most talented team, an extra two games in two time zones will adversely affect their ability to continue. Whoever they face in the NLDS will only have to play one extra game and they won’t have to travel farther than a 90-minute drive.

It’s little consolation when the Giants could have forced the Dodgers into a playoff with the Cardinals, but this is roughly the same outcome.

Second, unless something terrible happens, the Brewers and Cubs will both win, so there will be two tiebreaker games tomorrow. This is the maximum chaos possible. This doesn’t satisfy Giants fandom, but it satisfies baseball fandom. Game 163’s are rad as hell, and we’ll get two of them back-to-back tomorrow.

The Giants’ season is officially over, and Hunter Pence’s career as a Giant is over. It’s possible that a team could give him a chance next year, but that team won’t be the Giants. Since he came to San Francisco, he’s been the team’s spiritual compass. It’s hard to talk about intangibles with any certainty because they can be difficult to see or quantify, but with Hunter Pence, the effect that he had on the Giants’ clubhouse was obvious. Whether he was pumping up the team before an elimination game or clearing the bases with voodoo magicks or cheering on rookies at the beginning of their career, his joy and passion were infectious.

Pence’s absence won’t create a hole on the roster, but as a person: he’s irreplaceable.