Season ends with a Giant letdown as Dodgers beat San Francisco to end playoff run

It happened so quickly.

For 3½ hours, a packed house crowd of over 41,000 Giants fans perched on the edge of their seats during the final game of the National League Division Series between the Dodgers and the Giants, living and dying with every nail-gnawing pitch.

And suddenly, in the bottom of the ninth, on a strange, deeply disputed checked swing call for a strike, it was over.

The Dodgers took the win-or-go-home game, 2-1.

And the Giants, the late-season darlings of Bay Area baseball, winners of 109 games, are finished. One minute they were readying champagne and ski goggles for a postgame blowout, and the next they were wondering if they should come in and clean out their lockers tomorrow or wait a bit.

If people were still going to the office during this pandemic, you know what the water cooler conversation would be — all about Wilmer Flores’ phantom checked swing. And the umpire who missed the call. To have the game, and the series, end on what now seems clear to be a poor judgment ruling, is wrenching.

“Super tough,” Giants Manager Gabe Kapler said after the game. “You don’t want a game to end that way. It looked like he didn’t go. Just disappointing.”

And, while Kapler probably could have spent the next 20 minutes on the injustices of umpiring, he did the classy thing and directed attention to the big picture.

“Look,” he said, “there are other reasons why we didn’t win today’s baseball game. That was just the last call. They just got a few more hits than us. They just beat us.”

The game should be remembered as an example of what baseball can be. For all the buzz — and sports radio chatter — about the Dodgers making a late change in starting pitching and going with an opener instead of expected starter Julio Urias, by the end of the game it was all nearly forgotten.

Although we should spare a thought for 24-year-old Logan Webb, who may have been the only player in the series to learn that his grade school, Sierra Elementary in Rocklin, staged a “Logan Webb Day” before the game.

Webb, who was clearly emotional at the postgame interview, went a gutty seven innings, finishing off his evening with a strikeout of Cody Bellinger on his 105th pitch. At the time it was still 1-1 and Kapler stuck with him.

“At every stage,” Kapler said, “we were asking, is Logan Webb the best option to get the next three hitters out? And every time it was yes, yes and yes.”

Still, in the end, the game turned on the play of the established stars. Mookie Betts (most popular jersey in the Major Leagues) got four hits, stole second in the sixth and scored on a Corey Seager double to make it 1-0.

And the Giants responded with a majestic, 452-foot home run by Darin Ruf that would have been out of any park -- including Yosemite -- to make it 1-1.

And that’s where it stood in the ninth, when we forgot the pregame strategy and got down to business.

Kapler sent out the serene and talented 24-year-old Camilo Doval, who has amazed everyone with his command and composure.

But, as often happens in the crucible of postseason pressure, Doval blinked. He plunked Justin Turner, then gave up a single to advance him to second. Bellinger followed with a line drive up the middle that drove in Turner for a 2-1 lead.

Which is when, in one of those Madison Bumgarner moments, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts called for Cy Young contender Max Scherzer, a starter who had pitched seven innings just two days earlier.

Scherzer wasn’t masterful, but he was good enough. He got ahead of the Giants and then, with two out and two strikes, he threw a pitch that Flores started to swing at, then appeared to hold up. But it was ruled a swing and strike three. Game over.

Ruf spoke for all of the Bay Area when he evaluated the checked swing call afterwards, “At the time I wasn’t sure, but we’ve been able to see the replay and it didn’t look like he went.”

We know. And we will be talking about that call for weeks, if not months. But the simple fact is this:

The Giants are done.

Contact C.W. Nevius at Twitter: @cwnevius

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