It wasn’t the final game of the World Series. But for the team that broke the hearts of the KC Royals and their fans in the 2014 World Series, the defeat still stings. San Francisco, arguably the best club in the majors this season—they won 107 games, after all—lost 2-1 to the Dodgers, who’d won 106 themselves, and in the process lost their National League Division Series and a spot in the NL Championship Series.
The game, a nail-biter from the start, was in some ways oddly reminiscent of the seventh game of that 2014 Series when a different Giants club handed the Royals a devastating 3-2 loss and ended Kansas City’s magical return to postseason play. The winning margin was razor-thin, the pitching superb, and the way the game ended triggered controversy.
Just as things went seven years ago, the clubs battling Thursday night traded first runs in the same inning. The Giants scored twice in the second in 2014, only to see that lead disappear in the bottom half of the frame when the Royals came back with two of their own; Thursday, the Dodgers’ Corey Seager nicked San Francisco starter Logan Webb in the sixth for a run-scoring double, the only extra base hit he or any other Giant pitcher would give up, but Darin Ruf’s solo homer tied it minutes later and the game went to the seventh tied 1-1.
Watching Webb pitch was like witnessing Madison Bumgarner dominate the Royals in two 2014 Series starts, then in relief in the fateful seventh game. Webb was every bit as dominant as MadBum was—in a time when managers often grow leery of their starters’ chances somewhere during their second time through a lineup, Webb plowed through the Dodger order once, twice, and for good measure a third time. He allowed just four hits, walked only one, and struck out seven before manager Gabe Kapler brought in Tyler Rogers to begin the eighth.
Rogers wasn’t Webb, though, and gave way to Camilo Doval with two on and two out. Doval retired Trea Turner on a fly to right. Dodger closer Kenley Jansen, called to duty in the bottom half of the frame, retired the Giants in order. His performance complemented the work of those who preceded him: opener Corey Knebel and relievers Brusdar Graterol, Julio Urias, and Blake Treinen collectively scattered six hits, didn’t walk anyone, and struck out nine.
Just as Bumgarner shut down the KC Royals, a Los Angeles starter finished the Giants.
The lead run Los Angeles scored in the top of the ninth gave Max Scherzer, the Dodgers’ Cy Young candidate who came to LA in a trade deadline deal and went 7-0 down the stretch, the chance for his own MadBum-type moment. Like Bumgarner in 2014, Scherzer, a starter, got the ball out of the bullpen, tasked in an unfamiliar role with closing out an elimination game. He didn’t have to hold the fort down as long as Bumgarner, who pitched the final five innings against the Royals; instead, all the Dodgers required of him was one decisive frame.
And, also like Bumgarner, he came through.
After Brandon Crawford lined out to left and Kris Bryant reached on Justin Turner’s error, Scherzer fanned pinch hitter LaMonte Wade looking. Then came the game-ending moment that media and fans will long talk about. The discussion probably won’t last as long or be as intense as the one generated when KC Royals’ third base coach Mike Jirschele held Alex Gordon at third with two out in the ninth inning of 2014’s Game 7, but the controversy is there nonetheless.
Scherzer worked Wilmer Flores to a two-out, 0-2 count before Flores made an ever-so-slight pass at the next pitch, appearing in real time to successfully check his swing. Replays provided strong support for that result, but first base umpire Gabe Morales saw things differently and rung Flores up for the final out.
For the Giants, the only solace is that this loss ended a Division, not a World, Series.
This Giants team isn’t the same club it was when it stopped the Royals’ unforgettable postseason 2014 run. The players are different, and led by a different manager. Their loss ultimately won’t prove as bitter or hurt as much as the one they inflicted on the KC Royals in the 2014 World Series, but the Giants won’t get over it any time soon.
The Dodgers eliminated San Francisco from the postseason Thursday night. For the Giants, it’s the kind of loss the KC Royals can sympathize with.