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 check-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 added: “It’s heightened on the last play of the game ... in this case a check-swing."
“That’s going to be the thing that is talked about quite a bit and I understand why," he said. "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.”
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 working 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.
“Super tough. Yeah, I mean, obviously you don’t want a game to end that way. I know these guys work really hard to make the right call, so it’s super challenging on our end. Obviously it’s going to be frustrating to have a game end like that. But a pretty high-quality hitter at the plate that can climb back into that count, it’s no guarantee of success at the end of the at-bat. It’s just a tough way to end it.”
Morales told a pool reporter that "check swings are one of the hardest calls we have. I don’t have the benefit of multiple camera angles when I’m watching it live. When it happened live I thought he went, so that’s why I called it a swing.”
Morales said he had seen a replay of the last pitch. Asked whether he still thought it was a swing, crew chief Ted Barrett answered.
“Yeah, no, we, yeah, yeah, he doesn’t want to say,” Barrett said.
Many in the crowd of 42,275 had a more definitive view.
Fans who had 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.
In late July, Ruf had his own experience with a check-swing against Los Angeles. The umpires ruled he held up — it appeared he didn't come close — on a full-count pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium, resulting in a tying walk in a game the Giants eventually won.
This time, the call went a different way against his club.
“I mean, at the time I didn’t know, but obviously we’ve been able to see the replay and it didn’t look like he went,” Ruf said. “But a check-swing earlier in the year helped us out, too. So it’s kind of funny how it comes down to those two events. But, yeah, just, yeah.”
It was the 24th game this season between the teams rivals and they split them — 12 wins each.
The Dodgers won the final meeting, and manager Dave Roberts did his best to get the last call to go his way.
“I’m trying to sell it as much as I possibly can. So it’s baseball and, it’s baseball, and ultimately we won a ballgame,” he said.
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