The San Francisco Giants’ success in even years has run its course, and we can all breathe easy that there is in fact no higher power devoted to San Francisco baseball.
The Giants started the season as the best team in baseball, and after plummeting to a point where they had to scrape their way into a wild card spot, they narrowly avoided a sweep by the actual best team in baseball. The Giants went out as we all thought they would: outmatched by the Chicago Cubs, and with a blown save to boot.
Game 3 was about as wacky and excessive as you could imagine. The Giants managed to stay alive for 13 innings, taking the series deep into the night to push it to four games with a Joe Panik walk-off sacrifice fly. Game 4 turned the tables—or that appeared to be the case until the final frame. Starter Matt Moore went eight strong for the Giants, allowing only two hits with 10 strikeouts, throwing 120 pitches in total. The Giants showed a shockingly productive offense, as the Cubs flailed at the plate and mentally prepared to send this series back to Chicago and back to how it began: a showdown between Johnny Cueto and Jon Lester.
Three outs in the ninth should have been no problem for the Giants, who had the full bullpen at their disposal following last night’s marathon. But the Giants headed into the most crucial half-inning of the year, bringing with them the weight of 31 blown saves. Thirty-one! And then, there was 32.
Giants skipper Bruce Bochy cycled through five pitchers in the top of the ninth. Derek Law allowed a single to Kris Bryant. Javier Lopez allowed a walk. Sergio Romo allowed a two-run double to Ben Zobrist. Will Smith allowed the tying run to score. And Hunter Strickland finally closed it off after allowing the go-ahead run on a single to Javy Baez.
The Cubs brought out Aroldis Chapman for the bottom of the ninth. And that was it. The next game at AT&T Park is in April. Even-Year Bullshit is dead, finally.
The Cubs, you may note, are on a quest to snap their own historic streak. They will move on. The Giants will stay home. The offseason is long. But next year is next year, and all Giants fans are left with until April is the remembrance of the season that went to hell.
The Giants have given fans enough miraculous moments over the last six years that winning a five-game series against the Cubs seemed within the realm of possibility. They just needed some infield singles, some passed balls, maybe some mediocre player to come up big á la Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro, and Travis Ishikawa. Conor Gillaspie appeared to be that hero, following his three-run dinger off Jeurys Familia to give the Giants the advantage in the wild card, and the go-ahead triple in Game 3. Despite what we all saw of the product on the field, the Giants had reason to believe, because they had cobbled things together in ’10, ’12, and ’14. They were wrong, and that’s OK.
The Giants should not spend the offseason reflecting on what went wrong against the Cubs, but on what was wrong with themselves. The Giants as a whole hit poorly in the postseason. They got boned on a great start by Johnny Cueto that led to a one-run victory for the Cubs, but they boned themselves by trusting Jeff Samardzija with what he’d shown against the Cubs earlier in the year. They found that Madison Bumgarner does in fact have his limits too, though they found a way to stretch Game 3 into their signature improbable success. But Game 4 was the Giants’ destiny. It was the most fitting conclusion to their roller coaster of a season.
In the offseason the Giants will wave goodbye to some old friends—Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Jake Peavy, Gregor Blanco, and Angel Pagan will be free agents, for better or worse. Matt Moore has a team option. Maybe the Giants will make some—no, wait, this is the Brian Sabean/Bobby Evans front office we’re talking about, the new names and faces will be few and far between, and they will likely not be superstars, but they will find their moments eventually, as Giants randos always do.
The 2016 Giants still finished ahead of 10 teams in the National League, mostly due to the cushion provided by their hot start, and it would be uncouth to pretend most fanbases wouldn’t kill for a chance to find their own fists sweaty, jaws clenched with anxiety, at least a few days into October. For fans to expect another improbable postseason run would be greedy. And yet, the promise—the threat?—of Even-Year Bullshit lurked behind each pivotal play. Was this it again? Was it yet another year of the Giants sliding their way into another ticker-tape parade? It turns out, no. Fans—those based in San Francisco included—can finally find relief from the idea that unquantifiable magic is real, and more powerful than actual baseball talent. It’s over, it’s dead, and we can all finally move on.