Two of the final five games of Austin Slater’s season finished with frustration that brought his helmet to the ground.
The first resulted from anger at himself, bouncing into a double play that killed a potential rally against the Rockies, spiking the helmet in fury on Thursday.
The second emerged from disbelief. Sure, he had seen it — home-plate umpire Rob Drake already had called him out on poor strike calls twice in the game — but he could not believe this was how his and the Giants’ season was ending.
Baked into any complaining about umpires is eyerolling, and the Giants understood they should have settled their playoff spot before Drake had a say in it. But the umpire was a factor all the same in the 5-4 loss to the Padres on Sunday that sent the Giants home and not to Los Angeles.
“I didn’t see the strike. Was it bad?” Evan Longoria asked with a smile of the ninth-inning called punchout against Slater.
Strike three to end the season? 🧐 pic.twitter.com/jIGOCnFTsJ
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 27, 2020
It was. Each of Slater’s three strikeouts finished with Drake ringing him up on pitches that Statcast showed to be balls. The ninth-inning strikeout was the most crushing, the game-ender clearly low, though Slater’s first strikeout was the most egregious, on an outside pitch that probably could not have been reached.
Slater was not made available — and, it goes without saying, neither was Drake — but there were hints of frustration to media that were plainly obvious on the field as the Giants’ dugout barked at Drake.
“The ball that I got called out on [in the eighth] felt like it was down,” Longoria said about a strike three that indeed was low. “There were a lot of moments there that guys are obviously trying to grind through at-bats and put together some rallies and just battle back. We’re all out there trying to do our jobs the best we can.
“Sometimes it comes down to those moments, and I just hope that the umpires look themselves in the mirror and just be able to say that they’re doing the best that they can.”
It went both ways, Kevin Gausman benefiting from a strike three to Greg Garcia in the ninth that was off the plate. But it was the type of umpiring that should not exist in a Game 162 — or rather, Game 60, when the Giants needed to win to get in. They lost and are out.
“It was disappointing. Obviously I haven’t had a chance to go back and watch the game, but there were some calls that went against our guys,” said Gabe Kapler, who was hesitant to say much more considering there are fines and optics to consider.
Asked to evaluate Drake’s game, Kapler said, “It’s not going to be helpful for me to dive into that.”
It appeared he wanted to dive right at Drake after the third time Slater’s bat was taken out of his hands. Third-base coach Ron Wotus, too, was hollering as the frustration boiled over and their season ended on a call that should not have been made.
All Slater could do was look down in disbelief, again without his helmet.