Giants hope for rematch with Dodgers after NLDS loss

SAN FRANCISCO – The three-time champion made his way through the tunnel outside the San Francisco Giants clubhouse after the most intense nine innings of this baseball season.

“Sorry,” Stephen Curry said, punching his fists with Giants general manager Larry Baer.

“Hey, thanks, man,” Baer replied. “It was a punch.”

The Giants won three titles in the 2010s, just before Curry’s Golden State Warriors did the same in the NBA.

For the Giants, that meant four consecutive seasons lost after their last playoff appearance, in 2016. When they suddenly erupted for 107 wins, even defying their own projections, their happy place, the World Series, looked amazingly again. close.

The Los Angeles Dodgers ended that Thursday. They were the best wild card team ever, with 106 wins, and they knocked out the Giants, 2-1, in an exciting capper in this five-game National League division series.

The last moment will be debated for decades: Wilmer Flores, representing the winning point with two outs and one in the bottom of the ninth, has he really checked his swing? First baseman Gabe Morales said he qualified. Season ended.

In reality, Flores had almost no chance. He was down in the count of a fire-eater Max Scherzer, against whom he was 0 to 17 in his career. But the Giants and their fans will always want one more shot.

“I don’t know how much it makes sense for us on our side to separate this,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I don’t know how useful this is going to be.”

The Giants scored 10 points in the streak while hitting .182. In Game 5, they countered the Dodgers’ opening strategy with four pinched hitters, each with a game advantage. But none of the replacements were affected.

“The arms you face from this team are as good as they can get, top to bottom,” said Buster Posey, the Giants’ loyal wide receiver, in the dugout after Game 5. “I felt like we had done a very good job of not chasing too much; if you pursue these type of weapons, they will really expose you. But they’re so good that even if you don’t, there’s a chance they’ll still hold you back.

Posey, 34, may have had his best season since 2014, the last year the Giants won the World Series. The Giants have faced 11 different teams in the previous playoffs from Posey, Atlanta and Philadelphia and St. Louis and the others. But the Dodgers are different here, and Posey said he always wanted to shoot them. All the Giants have done it, and now they want a rematch.

“This won’t be the last time we face them in the playoffs,” said Logan Webb, the team’s star pitcher. He was sitting at an interview table with Darin Ruf, an outfielder the Giants signed from the South Korean league who had scored for their only point.

“We don’t plan to back down, and I know they don’t,” Ruf said. “So, I hope it will be fun for years to come.”

Hopefully, of course, this is the critical word. Like the 49ers of the Joe Montana era or the Curry’s Warriors, the Giants could find themselves playing in the shadows of their heyday. They moved here in 1958 and couldn’t win a championship with Willie Mays or his godson, Barry Bonds. Claiming three times in five years – with Posey and a closed pitching staff – can be as good as it gets.

Posey seems to understand this, although he naturally sees reasons for optimism after a season like this. The biggest, perhaps, is Webb, a 24-year-old right-hander who has limited the Dodgers to one run in a 14 ⅔ inning in this series. It was a refreshing effort for adults at a time when teams are looking after their best young arms.

“When you can build around the pitch I think Webby is a great start,” Posey said. “And I think the way the hitting coaches were able to get the best out of some players who have been around for a while. On top of that, you hope to have more young players and make an impact. “

He paused for a moment or two.

“Baseball is a tough sport to predict – obviously, with the way this year has gone for us,” Posey said. “But that sounds auspicious.”

Baer spent 30 seasons with the Giants, bridging their years at the wind-whipped Candlestick Park and their revival downtown. Each prepandemic season at Willie Mays Plaza, where the Giants relocated in 2000, drew more fans than their busiest season at Candlestick – 2.6 million in 1993. A prolonged lull in the field threatened that streak, but more now.

“Producing 109 wins, including the playoffs, was magical and they captivated the community,” Baer said. “It’s an incredible platform for the future for us. We did not reach the ultimate goal, but there has been so much progress in a short period of time. We feel empowered and emboldened. “

With just two players signed after 2022 – infielders Brandon Crawford and Tommy La Stella – the Giants could be a force in free agency. Their president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, has a knack for finding bargains, and after an uneven start to his managerial career in Philadelphia, Kapler has been a revelation with a roster of role players.

“The trust they showed in each other was second to none, better than any season I’ve ever been in as a player, coach, any position in baseball,” said Kapler said. “I just respect the hell of a team mentality first. I’ve never seen him like this.

No one else, ever – 107 regular season wins, the most in the history of this flagship franchise. The Dodgers are better and deserved to face Atlanta in the NL Championship Series. Their pitching should make them favorites to repeat as World Series champions.

But the pain of a punch, even from a bitter rival, only lasts so long. The Giants are back, and it’s an easy decision.

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