SAN FRANCISCO — The three-time champion wound his approach via the tunnel outdoors the San Francisco Giants’ clubhouse after essentially the most intense 9 innings of this baseball season.
“Sorry,” Stephen Curry mentioned, bumping fists with the Giants’ chief govt, Larry Baer.
“Hey, thanks, man,” Baer replied. “It was a gut-punch.”
The Giants gained three titles within the 2010s, simply earlier than Curry’s Golden State Warriors did the identical within the N.B.A. But the parade route all the time ends, and when rivals run you off the street, the trail again to glory could be treacherous.
For the Giants, that meant 4 shedding consecutive seasons after their final playoff berth, in 2016. When they all of the sudden erupted for 107 victories, defying even their very own projections, their completely satisfied place, the World Series, appeared tantalizingly shut once more.
The Los Angeles Dodgers put an finish to that on Thursday. They had been one of the best wild-card workforce ever, with 106 wins of their very own, they usually eradicated the Giants, 2-1, in a thrilling capper to this five-game National League division collection.
The remaining second will probably be debated for many years: Did Wilmer Flores, representing the profitable run with two out and one on within the backside of the ninth, actually verify his swing? The first base umpire, Gabe Morales, mentioned he went via. Season over.
Realistically, Flores had virtually no likelihood. He was down within the depend to a fire-breathing Max Scherzer, in opposition to whom he was 0 for 17 in his profession. But the Giants and their followers will all the time need yet another pitch.
“I don’t know how much it makes sense for us, on our side, to pick that apart,” Manager Gabe Kapler mentioned. “I don’t know how helpful it’s going to be.”
The Giants scored 10 runs within the collection whereas batting .182. In Game 5, they countered the Dodgers’ opener technique with 4 pinch-hitters, every with a matchup benefit. But not one of the replacements obtained a hit.
“The arms you’re facing from that team are as good as it gets, top to bottom,” Buster Posey, the Giants’ stalwart catcher, mentioned within the dugout after Game 5. “I felt like we did a pretty good job of not chasing too much; if you chase on those types of arms, they’re really going to expose you. But they’re so good that even if you don’t, there’s a chance they’re going to still hold you down.”
Posey, 34, had maybe his greatest season since 2014, the final 12 months the Giants gained the World Series. The Giants confronted 11 completely different groups in Posey’s prior playoff runs, Atlanta and Philadelphia and St. Louis and the remaining. But the Dodgers are completely different up right here, and Posey mentioned he all the time needed a shot at them. All of the Giants did, and now they need a rematch.
“This won’t be the last time we play them in the playoffs,” mentioned Logan Webb, the workforce’s breakout pitching star. He was seated at an interview desk with Darin Ruf, an outfielder the Giants signed from the South Korean league who had homered for their solely run.
“We don’t plan on taking any steps backwards, and I know they don’t,” Ruf mentioned. “So it will hopefully be fun for years to come.”
Hopefully, after all, is the vital phrase. Like the 49ers of the Joe Montana period or Curry’s Warriors, the Giants would possibly discover themselves enjoying within the shadow of their golden days. They moved right here in 1958 and couldn’t win a championship with Willie Mays or his godson, Barry Bonds. Claiming 3 times in 5 years — with Posey and a shutdown pitching employees — could also be pretty much as good because it will get.
Posey appears to understand that, although he naturally sees purpose for optimism after a season like this. The greatest, maybe, is Webb, a 24-year-old right-hander who held the Dodgers to at least one run in 14 ⅔ innings on this collection. It was a refreshingly grown-up effort in an age when groups child their greatest younger arms.
“When you can build around pitching, I think Webby’s a great start,” Posey mentioned. “And I think the way that the hitting coaches were able to get the most out of some players that have been around for a while. On top of that, you hope to have some more young players step in and be impactful.”
He paused for a figuring out beat or two.
“Baseball’s a tough sport to predict — obviously, with the way this year went for us,” Posey mentioned. “But it seems to bode well.”
Baer has spent 30 seasons with the Giants, bridging their years at wind-whipped Candlestick Park and their renaissance downtown. Every prepandemic season at Willie Mays Plaza, the place the Giants moved in 2000, has attracted extra followers than their best-attended season at Candlestick — 2.6 million in 1993. An prolonged lull on the sector threatened that streak, however not anymore.
“To produce 109 wins, including the playoffs, was magic, and they captivated the community,” Baer mentioned. “It’s an amazing platform for the future for us. We didn’t get to the ultimate goal, but there was so much progress in a short period of time. We feel empowered and emboldened.”
With solely two gamers signed previous 2022 — infielders Brandon Crawford and Tommy La Stella — the Giants might be a drive in free company. Their president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, has a knack for discovering bargains, and after an uneven begin to his managing profession in Philadelphia, Kapler has been a revelation with a roster of position gamers.
“The trust that they showed in one another was second to none, better than any season that I’ve ever been a part of as a player, as a coach, any position in baseball,” Kapler mentioned. “I just respect the hell out of a team-first mentality. I’ve never seen it like this.”
Neither had anybody else, ever — 107 wins within the common season, essentially the most within the historical past of this flagship franchise. The Dodgers are higher and deserved to maneuver on to face Atlanta within the N.L. Championship Series. Their pitching ought to make them favorites to repeat as World Series champions.
But the ache of a intestine punch, even from a bitter rival, lasts solely so lengthy. The Giants are again, and that’s a simple name.