SAN FRANCISCO — Wilmer Flores swung — or he didn’t — and that was it. Last call for the San Francisco Giants.
A surprising and spectacular ride for the Giants came to a startling halt Thursday night. Flores slowly walked back to the dugout after being called out on a disputed checked-swing, finishing a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the NL Division Series.
“It looked like he didn’t go. I mean, that was my take on it,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said.
“I just think it’s just a disappointing way to end,” he said.
Kapler’s ballclub, which set a franchise record with 107 wins in the regular season and had stayed a step ahead of the Dodgers the whole year, couldn’t quite finish off the defending World Series champs in a winner-take-all game.
Instead, their final chance ended when Flores was rung up on an 0-2 pitch from Dodgers ace Max Scherzer pitching in a rare closer’s role.
With a runner on first and two outs, Flores appeared on TV replays to hold up on a low-and-away slider that missed the strike zone. Plate umpire Doug Eddings checked with first base ump Gabe Morales, who ruled Flores swung — check-swings are judgment calls and not reviewable under Major League Baseball replay rules.
“I mean, the immediate emotion is frustration, right?” Kapler said.
“It’s heightened on the last play of the game … in this case a check-swing,” he said. “That’s going to be the thing that is talked about quite a bit and I understand why … I just don’t know how much sense it makes to, for us, on our side, to pick that apart. I don’t know how much, how helpful it’s going to be.”
The crowd of 42,275 had its own view.
Fan who spent the evening standing and waving orange towels erupted in anger after Morales’ call. Some threw cans of beer onto the field as the Dodgers emerged from their dugout, and several pieces of trash were tossed onto the outfield grass.
It was an abrupt end to a year that few people saw coming out of spring training, especially from a team that hadn’t finished over .500 since 2016.
With the World Series champion Dodgers and Padres heavily favored, the upstart Giants not only saw their championship-experienced veterans shine but repeatedly rode their bevy of fresh new faces – including young ace Logan Webb – to the best record in baseball.
They did it behind resurgent seasons from catcher Buster Posey and All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford. Kris Bryant, acquired at the trade deadline, provided pop for a lineup that led the National League with 241 home runs.
That power was mostly missing in the deciding game against the Dodgers. Darin Ruf’s solo shot off Julio Urías was the lone run the Giants scored.
It was the 24th game this season between the teams rivals and they split them — 12 wins each.
“So rivalry is great, obviously, and clearly in good shape and already, I’m not saying we’re turning the page to next year,” Kapler said. “I think that’s not true, but what I’ll say is we’re excited about building on this foundation.”