A giant loss for the San Francisco Giants


Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle

Kiana Thelma Devera, Staff Writer

They are at their home field with one run down, a runner on first base, two outs and a 0-2 count in the bottom of the ninth inning. The San Francisco Giants’ first-baseman Wilmer Flores steps into the batter’s box as the 42,000 zealous fans in Oracle Park surround the field, standing upright, waving their orange rally rags and anxiously waiting for the pitch from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace Max Scherzer. 


An 87 miles-per-hour slider is thrown towards the glove of Dodgers catcher Will Smith, who has the seventh batter in the lineup chasing, but just barely. The check swing was not enough to go across home plate to be considered a full swing, or so Flores and every other Giants fan thought. As quickly as the pitch came, Smith pointed to first-base umpire Gabe Morales for his verdict — he was found with his right fist closed, signaling the third out. Game five was over and so was the Giants’ time in the postseason.


Flores slowly walks back into the third-base-side dugout as the swarm of men in blue and white take over the field in celebration — unbothered by the amounts of leftover popcorn, empty cans of beer and other pieces of trash flying their way from all sides. 


In this heartbreaking series of events and a controversial call, the Giants had lost their clinch to the National League Championship Series title after a devastating 2-1 loss to their long-time NL West rival. 


Whether Morales still believes in his third out call is up in the air — crew chief Ted Barrett spoke for him, saying that he has no say after it was reported that Morales had seen a replay review of the pitch. Check swings, as many umpires assert, are challenging calls as making those calls in real time forces umpires to make gut decisions from their singular angle. 


According to Rule 8.02(c) which specifically addresses appealing check swings, a manager or catcher may request the plate umpire to ask a base umpire for help on a checked swing when the plate umpire calls the pitch a ball, but not when the pitch is called a strike. Should the base umpire call the pitch a strike, the strike call shall prevail.


The decision made by the base umpire is without question reviewable as balls and strikes are already non-reviewable and any attempts to do so create grounds for ejection. Requesting a replay would then essentially be an appeal of an appeal. This standard is in efforts by Major League Baseball to cut the time of games and reviews of check-swing calls would work against that objective. Whether this requirement is ethical is on the edge of a very small foul line. While the MLB can implement such changes without the consent of the players’ union, it is likely to not occur — though it would be nice if they could adopt a rule used in the Little League World Series where the final play of all games are automatically reviewed.


Many Giants fans have argued that it was a disappointing way to lose, that for the sake of sportsmanship and the integrity of the sport, a game this important should not be robbed from a disputed call. Words such as “disgraceful”, “terrible”, “embarrassing” and “unprofessional” floated across various social media platforms. Gabe Kapler, the Giants’ manager, said himself that it was a tough loss — that it is unfortunate that the game ended the way that it did seeing as the team works hard. At the end of the day, Kapler says there is no need to be angry and that there are various other reasons as to why they did not win the ballgame.


After a franchise-best of 107 wins during the regular season, it is hard to accept that the number one team in the NL West standings could not perform against the defending World Series champions in the final three-hour and 26-minute winner-take-all division series game. 


Several believe that World Series status could have been close for the Giants. With World Series veterans such as Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford and rising stars such as Logan Webb and Mike Yastrzemski under the ballclub’s belt, the strong roster would have never expected the Atlanta Braves to face the Dodgers in the playoffs and not them.

As the Giants return to the comfort of their homes and turn on their televisions to watch the World Series, the Bay Area can at least be assured that the Dodgers are not there either.