The Los Angeles Dodgers received the most extreme of breaks to end Thursday night’s Game 5 of the NLDS, and thus the series.
But it wasn’t a type of break they were entirely unfamiliar with.
The San Francisco Giants‘ magical 2021 season ended with Wilmer Flores going, let’s say, 30% of the way towards swinging, which does not constitute a full swing in anyone’s imagination other than first base umpire Gabe Morales’.
It was an extremely difficult snap judgment, one surely rendered impossible by the fact that it involved Hall of Famer Max Scherzer bearing down on a 1-2 count to Flores, a journeyman who’s been dominated by Mad Max throughout his career (he’s 0-fer). Emotion surely entered into this call, but it was the wrong variety. It should’ve been the type of emotion that wants to tell a better story than this one at the tail end of a hard-fought playoff series.
The Dodgers have benefitted from the Giants Darin Ruf call that cost them the NL West.
The Giants handled this difficult situation perfectly, from top to bottom.
Manager Gabe Kapler didn’t overreact, well aware his offense could’ve reached out and grabbed the game at various points and simply didn’t. They left the decisive contest close enough for an umpire to end it of his own accord. Nobody wanted it, but the 2021 Giants’ sudden offensive ineptitude left it possible.
Of course, there was also Darin Ruf. The slugger was sheepishly aware, in the aftermath of the devastating loss, that a blown check swing call from earlier in the season, where his bat plainly crossed the zone and was not noticed, was basically responsible for the one-game swing that put the decisive Game 5 in San Francisco instead of Los Angeles.
After the game, Ruf didn’t explode. He had no tirade prepared. He simply made the argument every Dodgers fan was making, but a little bit quieter.
Flores didn’t go. Ruf did. It’s impossible to play “sliding doors” here, but it’s safe to say this series might’ve looked a lot different if it had begun with Logan Webb on the mound at Dodger Stadium.
It also would’ve looked different if, say, Camilo Doval had found command of his fastball. Or if Brandon Belt had been available to captain the ship. Or if any number of slumping Giants had simply replicated their regular season performance.
San Francisco might’ve tipped the scales with any number of slight changes, but they’re well aware the final frame of this series looked like a thievery.
Kudos to Ruf for accepting that, but reminding everyone of the bigger picture.