Let’s face it. All along, you knew the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers would play a fifth game in the NLDS, with both teams facing elimination, and their millions of fans simultaneously suffering from an otherwise rare condition known as heartinthroatitis.
You knew it even when the St. Louis Cardinals jumped out to a lead in the one-game Wild Card, and spent all nine innings flirting with winning. Even as you realized an upset actually might happen, you knew it wouldn’t.
You knew it when the Giants emphatically stated their case in Game 1, Logan Webb dominating as the dinger-mashers put ball after ball over the fence. The Giants won that game 4-0, and looked clearly the better team. It dawned on you that it was possible that San Francisco might quiet any talk of the Dodgers being the superior team with a three-game smackdown. You were optimistic. But you knew what actually awaited them.
You knew it when the Dodgers bounced back with a dominant Game 2 performance. Your baseball anxiety bubbled, and you looked in the mirror in disgust as you found yourself questioning after one measly game whether this team — this franchise record-setting team — was capable of playing half-decent baseball, capable of winning one more game against the team you hated. Yet you knew exactly what was in store.
You knew it when they played one of the most dramatic postseason games in franchise history — a mighty endorsement, given what has transpired over the last 11 years — beating Max Scherzer in Game 3 on one swing, holding the Dodgers bats and fly balls at bay, just barely at bay. They really might do this, you thought. They might celebrate in Chavez Ravine. But you knew better.
You knew it during Game 4, as the Dodgers jumped all over the Giants. You dutifully reminded yourself of the many, many previous comebacks — remember when they overcame a 7-0 deficit against the Arizona Diamondbacks? Remember those late-inning heroics against the Dodgers? — as you feigned belief that they could crawl back into the game and win. But you knew.
You always knew.
Baseball is a poetic game, but it’s rarely this poetic, and it certainly doesn’t often dabble in predictable poetry. Baseball’s poetry is usually more like the gifted writer in the college course, freshly in love with a new partner, who receives a prompt in class to write a love poem, and returns with one of the best things you’ve read: an ode, from the fly’s perspective, to the shit.
It’s poetic. It’s delightful. It’s not at all what you expected.
In reality, the Cardinals could have finished the Dodgers right then and there and no one would have blinked an eye. The Giants could have swept the series or won yesterday, and the Dodgers could have run away with Games 3 and 4 the way they did with Game 2.
We didn’t actually have to get here, even though it felt inevitable as early as July. The inevitable fails us more than it rewards us on the baseball diamond, and while I would have been happy with failure in the form of a three-game sweep with a +109 run differential, the rewarded inevitability is oddly comforting.
It is what you expected.
It’s the Giants and the Dodgers, baseball’s two best teams, and two fiercest rivals. It’s their 24th matchup this year. It’s champagne for one, and tears for another; champagne for millions, and tears for millions.
It’s one of the greatest seasons in franchise history validated, and one of the greatest seasons in franchise history cut tragically short.
Inevitable or otherwise, Game 5 is all we could ever ask for.