LOS ANGELES -- Hours before the Giants stepped in front of the pitching bulldozer otherwise known as Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday evening, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy had a quandary: What should be done if his team were to lose yet still have a chance to celebrate?
At that moment, it was possible that for only the second time in baseball history, the winning and losing team in the same game would clinch. If the Brewers lost Wednesday and the Dodgers beat the Giants for the NL West title, San Francisco would still have wrapped up a playoff spot. Given Kershaw's lifetime 1.44 ERA against the Giants, this scenario obviously was very possible.
Bochy had watched a lot of this same group of players win the World Series in 2010 and 2012, and on one hand, the notion of donning goggles and spraying champagne right after a loss to the Dodgers might've seemed odd, and maybe a little beneath them.
But Bochy had also seen this group of players journey through a long and difficult season, recovering after the All-Star break after squandering a huge lead in June, playing through injuries to Angel Pagan and Mike Morse. When the season ends, 20 teams will go home, and if the Giants had earned the right to go to the playoffs, Bochy decided, this was something worth celebrating. No matter whether the Giants won or lost Wednesday, they had earned the right to feel good about themselves given the work they had put in over the long spring training and the six-month season.
So win or lose Wednesday, Bochy had given the go-ahead for the champagne to be sprayed in the modest visitors' clubhouse, and why not, given the circumstances? The Giants are limping toward the playoffs, after a lost weekend in San Diego, after learning that Pagan will miss the rest of the season. A celebration might've reminded this group of players just how far they've come, and what's possible moving forward.
In the end, Bochy's deliberations didn't matter. The Brewers won, staying alive in the race, so the only way the Giants would have doused each other Wednesday night would happen if they beat Kershaw, which, even in May, might've earned them a parade, given his dominance. But it was not to be: Kershaw held the Giants to a run over eight innings, lowering his ERA to 1.77, increasing his strikeouts to a staggering 239, improving his final record to 21-3, and he mashed the first triple of his career.
After Tim Hudson departed, the Giants utterly collapsed into a morass of walks and defensive mistakes, and the bottom of the eighth inning lasted more than a half-hour, with a sold-out Dodger Stadium crowd preparing to celebrate.