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Giants get all the breaks but fall just short in heartbreaking finish to season


Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


In a season of obstacles, of games interrupted by COVID scares and wildfire smoke, a campaign that has taken many Giants from their families, of orange skies and road Oracle Park contests, of starts and stops and then a last few weeks in which the gas pedal had to be floored, San Francisco received what had seemed unfathomable.

A break.

By the bottom of the fifth inning of the final regular-season contest of the year, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado were gone, relaxing in the Padres dugout. In the sixth, the Padres’ starting catcher went out with injury, and thus they flipped their DH and had to bat their pitcher. The Brewers lost, meaning all the Giants had to do was win. On a day the Giants needed help to reach the postseason, the care packages arrived from all precincts.

But aid is helpless for those who can’t help themselves, and a team that lost its final three games does not deserve a playoff spot.

The scoreboard-watching is over, the hopes of a playoff showdown with the Dodgers going down the same drain as the Giants’ season. Swarms of the most polite cutouts to have ever been cut out did not boo as the Giants’ offense could not complete a comeback in a 5-4 heartbreaker Sunday to the Padres that culminates a late-season collapse, the 13-games-in-12-days stretch proving fatal.

The 2020 Giants club will be remembered as one that could bully the weak but was pitiful against the strong. They finished 7-19 against teams above .500 and 2-8 against the Padres, who took three of four in a series that, in retrospect, the Giants only needed to split. As resilient as the club has been because of bats that awoke late in games, the gut-punches come to mind more easily, Sam Coonrod delivering the most recent but Trevor Gott’s three looming large.

They came back from an 8-16 start to go as high as two games above .500, a mark they fell short of (29-31). Sixteen clubs make the playoffs this season, and the Giants, whose goals shifted quickly as the season wore on, will be devastated that the doubters they have ignored throughout the year were proven right.

In the end, it was a lack of both enough hitting — they were furious with the home-plate umpire Rob Drake — and fielding that fit them for a toe tag. Their six hits were four more than the two errors they committed. Austin Slater struck out looking three times, including to end the game, all on pitches that appeared to be off the plate. Both the Giants dugout and third-base coach Ron Wotus were angry.

The Padres gave themselves breathing room in the seventh, a frame that started with Evan Longoria booting a Jake Cronenworth sharp grounder. San Diego padded the lead against first Jarlin Garcia and then Logan Webb — it was empty-the-tank time — on a Jorge Mateo double, Greg Garcia sacrifice fly and Wil Myers double. Myers, the Giants killer, also homered off an electric Drew Smyly.

The Giants mounted a rally in the bottom of the inning, Brandon Crawford making a bid to continue a resurgent season by knocking a two-run homer. Joey Bart and Mike Yastrzemski walked to bring up a pinch-hitting Donovan Solano with two outs, but Solano struck out.

Wilmer Flores opened the eighth with a homer to cut the lead to one, a shot to right from the righty just as Mauricio Dubon stroked in the second. But the Giants’ bombs came without enough runners on base.

They left six on base, going 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. It wasn’t enough to support a strong start that they needed.

Smyly deserved better. The righty finished off a strong, brief campaign with 10 strikeouts in five, two-run innings. He induced 18 swings and misses, his most since April 13, 2016, in striking his way out of plenty of innings. Myers homered and Smyly surrendered an RBI double from Mitch Moreland — which bounded off the Chevron extension in left, the dog happily saving a run — but finished with three hits allowed and one walk.

The Giants’ pen took it from there, Kevin Gausman even making an appearance in the ninth. But it hiccupped in the seventh, which would prove costly.

From regulations to city officials to MLB to the front office to the staff to the players, so much was poured into making the 2020 Giants exist. But they are finished without the payoff they craved.

 

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