In 50 years, here’s how the Giants' season (and loss to the Dodgers) will be remembered

SAN FRANCISCO — Fifty years from now, Giants fans who were alive to witness the 2021 season will have two lasting memories.

107 wins and a heartbreak against the Dodgers.

The loss the Giants experienced Thursday, a 2-1 defeat that featured a go-ahead ninth-inning RBI from Cody Bellinger, will go down as one of the most painful in the history of the franchise.

It’s not just that one of the Dodgers’ worst hitters this year beat their closer for the game-winning hit. It’s not just that Giants first baseman Wilmer Flores had the bat taken out of his hands with a brutal call on a check-swing attempt to end the game. It’s not just that the offense couldn’t deliver for starter Logan Webb or that the Giants failed to put the NLDS away in Los Angeles after taking a 2-1 series lead.

There’s a long list of reasons why a season-ending defeat to a rival will sting for years to come. At the top is that after a magical, unsuspecting ride to the top of the National League West, the Giants and their fans truly believed the 2021 club was a team of destiny.

How else was a season that began with the Giants projected to win anywhere from 72 to 77 games and featured a stunning triumph on the final day of the 162-game schedule supposed to finish?

This is the franchise that turned a 92-win season in 2010 into the first World Series trophy the Giants had hoisted since the club moved west from New York in 1958. It’s the franchise that shocked the Detroit Tigers with a four-game sweep to cap a second title in three seasons. It’s the franchise that watched the bullpen door swing open in Kansas City so homegrown ace Madison Bumgarner could author the greatest postseason performance of his era en route to a third championship in five years.

The franchise of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda has never hurt for star power, but for more than 60 years in San Francisco, it ached for a trophy. What the likes of Juan Marichal, Will Clark and Barry Bonds couldn’t bring to the city, Buster Posey finally did.

And Posey, whose career will be defined not by counting stats but by World Series rings, gave the Giants every reason to believe he would soon be fitted for another.

After sitting out the truncated 2020 season to protect the health of his family and adopted newborn twin girls, Posey hit .304 and posted a .889 OPS that represented his highest mark since he finished his 2012 MVP season with a .957 OPS.

He led the Giants with help from his longest-tenured teammates and close friends, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, who each forced the baseball industry to rethink what players who are supposed to be nearing the end of their careers are capable of when given the chance to continue developing.

Crawford should finish as a top-five NL MVP vote-getter for the first time in his career, while Belt launched a career-high 29 home runs and was robbed of a chance to help the Giants in the NLDS by a fractured thumb suffered on a late-September hit-by-pitch.

It was only two years ago that it seemed the trio would struggle to make it to the end of their contracts, but under manager Gabe Kapler and a cutting-edge coaching staff, the Giants’ most respected veterans in the clubhouse reestablished themselves as the team’s most respected players on the field.

That Posey, Crawford and Belt were able to lead the Giants to a record-setting season was also the result of a remarkable effort from a front office led by Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris, who have found contributors from clutch hero “Late-Night” LaMonte Wade Jr. to All-Star Kevin Gausman.

Future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy used to say you need players to have the best seasons of their careers to have a chance to win the World Series. Throughout a ride to the top of the division that no one expected, the Giants received that kind of production from a much longer list of players than anyone thought possible.

That’s how a team that wasn’t supposed to be in the Dodgers’ weight class had its rivals backed against the ropes, fighting for a chance to survive. And to be sure it wasn’t a lucky punch, the Giants proved their might on the field with 12 head-to-head victories in the 24 games they played against the Dodgers this year.

From Mike Tauchman’s home-run robbery at Dodger Stadium to Flores’ go-ahead home run off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, the Giants found ways to win close games in Los Angeles. From an errant Bellinger throw across the diamond that led to a one-run Giants win and an errant Trea Turner toss that led to a walk-off win on a Posey ground ball, the Giants outlasted the Dodgers in close games at home, too.

At the end of a 162-game marathon, the Giants were one win better than the Dodgers. It seemed like fate, it felt like destiny and it looked as if the stars had aligned for Posey and a Giants team nobody thought could win to end up taking down their rivals in another march through October.

On Thursday, the dream the Giants were living out came to an end. A surreal season is over, complete with 107 wins and broken hearts that won’t soon be mended.

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