The San Francisco Giants lept over the dugout wall, swarming Sergio Romo and the rest of the team on the mound in a dog-pile embrace. They had won the second wild card in a 7-1 drubbing of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Rookies and veterans alike whipped beer around the clubhouse and onto each other’s heads.
This has become a familiar sight at AT&T Park, this decade at least. But this time a mountain of tension, expectations and disappointment, dissipated with that final out. Bruce Bochy kept it real:
“If we hadn’t gotten to the postseason it would have been really hard to take.”
The Giants’ series-sweeping win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 162 finally handed San Francisco a slot in the postseason, erasing the stains of a bleak second-half and quashing, for now, talk of the kind of historic collapse sports fans would note for years to follow.
Of course, the line between devastation and elation all came down to the final game of the season. With a St. Louis Cardinals win–they ended up beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 10-4–a Giants loss would have forced a tie-breaker on the road.
They knew they had to win out against an always hungry rival team.
And they did it convincingly.
Asked if he had envisioned Matt Moore pitching a playoff clincher, general manager Bobby Evans nodded his head. They’d been following him for a while and knew what this lefty could manage.
Matt Duffy was sacrificed for this, which upset Giants fans at first. But Moore’s dominance over the Dodgers, despite a one-inning, six run collapse his last outing, is sure to have won the fanbase over. His manager knew Moore could handle this kind of game:
“I was really confident with him in this game. I couldn’t have felt better.”
Moore’s eight innings of one-run ball validated his skipper’s vote of confidence. He held the Dodgers hitless in seven of those innings, only snagged by a three-hit, one-run fourth inning before he resumed his dominant performance. He went about this like any other big game — and the Giants have played plenty in last few weeks:
“I pitched the last game of the season, and it ended up being a pretty significant game.”
The Giants will tell you that every game has been significant in this sketchy race for the franchise’s fourth postseason appearance in seven years. This Dodgers series was a pre-playoff series; the kind of do-or-die, back-against-the-wall weekend this team thrives on, said Bochy:
“Seems like we need our backs against the wall.”
The Giants outscored the Dodgers 19-4 and out pitched their starters by almost eight innings in the final weekend. Urgency notched a few ticks higher than in week’s past; the defense and offense came to life Sunday afternoon.
Conor Gillaspie wanted to give Vin Scully–in his final broadcast after 67 years–something to talk about, so he flipped over the dugout wall and, apparently, broke a camera to hold on to Chase Utley‘s foul ball. Every out matters, he said:
“The reality was we had to win every game.”
Kenta Maeda was the last hurdle, and there was no chance he would stop a Giants team one kick away from breaking the postseason gates open. A win and they were in, so this team decided to put the offensive game away in the first two innings.
Posey wasn’t waiting around, either, and punished the first pitch he saw for a chalk-hugger, clearing the bases and giving the Giants a two-run lead.
Span struck again in the following inning, making good use of Joe Panik and Conor Gillaspie‘s one-out single and double to put the Giants up 4-0. Posey notched his 80th RBI of the season with another single up the middle to give the Giants a 5-0 lead.
Maeda departed with his worst start of the year, giving up five runs on nine hits in 2-2/3 innings.
Every Giant in the lineup got at least one hit, 16 total. Span, Posey and Angel Pagan all went 3-for-5.
Span singled and reached second on Yasiel Puig‘s error to lead off the inning and Pence sent him home with a single to right. Crawford got his RBI with a drive that escaped Joc Pederson’s glove in center.
So the Giants are sitting on a four-game home win streak, which happens to be the longest streak they’ve had in the second half. They’ve won five of their last six, and guys who’ve been through the postseason a few times know they’re getting hot at the right time. Sergio Romo, who pitched a one-hit ninth inning, has seen this before:
“I don’t think you’ve seen us play our best game all season. … Now we get a chance to dance, and we like our chances.”
Said Brandon Crawford:
“We feel good. We’ve been here before.”
Bumgarner was the clear choice for an elimination game (remember 2014? Game 7?), and smiled at the thought of a marquee matchup. This team has faced Syndergaard and his 100 mile-per-hour fastball before, shut out during a terrible offensive drought, but the ace like his team’s chances:
“We went through a lot of adversity this year, but it seems like we always do.”
The Mets finished September with a 17-10 record, and are 1-1 in October. They have scored 57 runs over the last seven days, and will be a tough matchup for the Giants, whether they’re hot or not.