Giants dream season ends at the hands of the Dodgers, 2-1 – The San Francisco Examiner

It was dueling mayors at Game 5 of the NLDS, where San Francisco’s London Breed and Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti squared off for the benefit of the cameras and capacity crowd early on. The two sat together next to Giants’ CEO Larry Baer, adjacent to the Giants’ dugout. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)

How could a game with such high expectations possibly live up to its promise? I have no idea. But it did.

Arch-rivals squaring off in the postseason for the first time. In a deciding Game 5. In front of a packed house at the game’s best ballpark. You kind of wanted it to go on forever, capturing us in some form of perpetual baseball ecstasy.

But that’s not how the game works. And for the Giants, this miraculous season ends with the most bitter taste imaginable, vanquished by the Dodgers, 2-1, on their own turf.

Fans will forever remember Cody Bellinger singling in the go-ahead run in the top of the 9th inning off the young phenom Camilo Doval, driving in Justin Turner from second base and pointing at his own dugout in triumph as he sprinted to first, breaking the 1-1 tie.

There was a flicker of hope for the Giants in the bottom of the frame. When Lamonte Wade Jr. strode to plate after Kris Bryant reached on an error, it sure felt like some more magic was about to happen. “Late-night Lamont” had been turning in walk-off heroics all season, to a remarkable degree. But it wasn’t meant to be Thursday night. He got called out looking, on a questionable call by home plate umpire Doug Eddings. Wilmer flores then whiffed on a check-swing and the umpire crew had to hustle under cover as beer cans flew onto the field in protest.

A pretty ugly ending to a beautiful summer.

“It’s just a tough way to end it,” said Giants manager Gabe Kapler, of the tough calls at the end of the game. “(But) there are other reasons we lost the ballgame.”

Asked how his players were handling the loss.

“I think players really care about each other… There are expressions of appreciation of a job well done for a very successful season that came up just a little bit short at the end. You’ve gotta tip your cap to the work that they did. They beat us.

But Kapler knows he has something special with this team.

“The trust that they showed each other was second to none,” he said. “I just respect the hell out of a team-first mentality. And I’ve never seen it like this.”

It was a night of tension and apprehension throughout. Even before the gates opened at Third and King, you could feel it in the streets as the tribes gathered. There was plenty of orange, and lots of blue, but not much merriment. It was as if everyone finally realized this dream scenario was going to end tonight. And it was going to hurt real bad for one side.

Giants starter Logan Webb seemed to be the only one not sweating it. There was talk of him pounding Red Bulls before the game and the postseason star didn’t flinch when manager Gabe Kapler handed him the ball. Using a tantalizing array of offspeed pitches, mixed in with some country hardball and a full variety of arm slots, Webb tortured the Dodgers for seven strong innings of four-hit ball. Let’s put it this way, Mookie Betts collected three of those hits. If the Dodgers’ right-fielder hadn’t been leading off, Webb’s miraculous performance could have been magical.

“I don’t think he could’ve pitched any better,” said Kapler. “I still think Logan pitched excellent … even to Mookie.

“Mookie just got the job done.”

Either way, the young man cemented his status as a big-game performer, inching his way closer to comparisons to legends like Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner. He’s not there yet, but it sure is nice that someone’s trying to step into those big spikes.

On the Dodgers side, the game was changed dramatically before the first pitch was thrown. L.A. manager Dave Roberts announced early Thursday that expected starter Julio Urias would not take the mound to face the Giants in the first inning. Instead, he would use the modern, analytics-driven “opener” approach, sending out reliever Corey Knebel to start the game and perhaps bring Urias out of the bullpen.

Roberts made it pretty clear in pregame comments that the decision on this had come down form on-high in the Dodgers’ organization, but he stood behind it. “It’s from all the way to the tippy top of the Dodgers organization on down. It was a decision that we all made together.” Asked if it was a unanimous decision, he said, “I do not get more than one vote. No, I don’t. No, I don’t.”

Something about Dodgers’ decision felt deflating at first. This had been such a marquee matchup, between the young Giants’ ace and the only pitcher to win 20-games in the Big Leagues this season. Now, it was Logan Webb against a guy named Knebel. But, ultimately, the move worked well for the Dodgers. They were able to dictate change in the game, forcing Kapler to make substitutions when Roberts changed pitchers.

Knebel did fine, giving way to Brusdar Graterol, before Urias finally emerged to pitch brilliantly.

Basically, the Dodgers played the game backwards. And it worked pretty well.

“This is what the postseason’s all about,” said Kapler. “You face the best pitchers. … I actually think we put good at-bats together, but we couldn’t get it done.”

It was a pretty interesting turn of events, considering the Giants and Dodgers are both on the cutting edge of analytics-driven baseball, using numbers and data to make decisions that used to fall largely to instincts and guts. And it certainly worked. The teams won 107 and 106 games, respectively.

Then they turned in the best National League Division Series in memory. It was two parts history, mixed with one part respect and a good measure of hatred.

And that recipe, my friends resulted in a masterpiece.

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