Giants

Another Dodgers choke job clinches memorable decade for Giants fans

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AP

Another Dodgers choke job clinches memorable decade for Giants fans

The 2010s were one hell of a decade for Giants fans.

Not only did they get to celebrate three World Series titles in a span of five years, they also got to watch their bitter rivals choke time, and time, and time, and time, and time, and time and time again.

The Washington Nationals put the cherry on top of San Francisco's phenomenal decade, coming from behind to defeat the Dodgers 7-3 in Game 5 of the NLDS on Wednesday night, thereby ending Los Angeles' season.

And, really, it couldn't have happened any other way.

Leading 3-1 in the top of the seventh, Clayton Kershaw came on in relief of Dodgers starter Walker Buehler. He struck out Adam Eaton to end the inning, but that would be the only out he recorded on the night.

After the Dodgers went in order in the bottom of the inning, Kershaw came back out to start the eighth. What happened next made every Giants fan laugh, and every Dodgers fan cry.

Twice.

First, Kershaw gave up a lead-off homer to Anthony Rendon. The very next batter -- on the very next pitch! -- Kershaw served up a 449-foot blast to Washington's Juan Soto, tying the game at 3-3.

Seriously, you couldn't make it up.

Kershaw was pulled immediately thereafter, and Kenta Maeda struck out the side to get out of the inning. The three-time Cy Young winner could only look on from the dugout as the game eventually went into extra innings.

Adam Eaton drew a lead-off walk for Washington in the top of the 10th, and Rendon followed that up with a double off the wall in left. Soto was intentionally walked to load the bases. And then Howie Kendrick crushed the Dodgers' dreams.

Kendrick clobbered a 410-foot grand slam over the center-field wall, silencing Dodger Stadium. Sean Doolittle plowed through the Dodgers in order in the bottom half of the inning to close it out, and that was that.

Another division title. Another playoff choke job.

The Dodgers won 106 games during the regular season, their most in franchise history. They had a $200 million-plus payroll, fourth-highest in the majors. They led the National League in runs, home runs, total bases, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS, ERA and shutouts. They led Game 5, 3-0 

And they won two more playoff games than the Giants.

[RELATED: Source: Giants to interview A's coach Kotsay for manager]

Look, the Dodgers definitely had a better season than San Francisco.

Gee, when have we heard that before?

As for which of the long-time rivals had the better decade, though, that is quite oppositely one-sided.

Giants add four more to player pool, including two top infield prospects

Giants add four more to player pool, including two top infield prospects

It was a poorly kept secret that catcher Chadwick Tromp and shortstop Will Wilson would be part of the Giants' 60-man player pool. Both had posted on social media this week that they were in San Francisco. 

The Giants officially added both Saturday morning, along with two of their more intriguing prospects: Luis Toribio and Camilo Doval. Their pool is at 56, leaving three more spots with the likelihood that Hunter Bishop also gets added once he recovers from the coronavirus.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Toribio, a 19-year-old third baseman, becomes one of the youngest players in a big league camp this summer. Signed out of the Dominican Republic, he has a .282/.428/.467 slash line in 118 games but has not played above rookie ball yet. He likely would have started this season at Low-A Augusta. 

Wilson already is somewhat known by Giants fans because he came over in a December trade, when the Giants took on Zack Cozart's $12.6 million -- now their most expensive contract -- to get a player they had considered taking with the 10th overall pick last June. Wilson had a .768 OPS in 46 games after getting drafted by the Los Angeles Angels last year. He joins former North Carolina State teammate Patrick Bailey in camp. 

Doval is an intriguing addition, and he was officially added on his 23rd birthday. He has a fastball that has reached triple digits and has averaged nearly 13 strikeouts-per-nine in the minors. Doval was in San Jose last season, and he's the type who should move quickly through the organization as a hard-throwing reliever.

Tromp was in big league camp this spring and gives the Giants additional catching depth. He put up good OBP numbers in the Cincinnati Reds' system before the Giants added him as a minor league free agent. 

[RELATED: A running diary of Giants' first day back at Oracle Park]

Toribio is the organization's No. 6 prospect per Baseball America, and No. 7 according to MLB Pipeline. Wilson is ranked in the top 12 on both lists.

With the addition of Toribio and the possibility of Bishop being added, the Giants would have much of their top 10 in camp. Alexander Canario, Luis Matos, Sean Hjelle and Seth Corry stand out as prospects still waiting for the call. 

Giants return to Oracle Park, embrace 'new norm' on first day of camp

Giants return to Oracle Park, embrace 'new norm' on first day of camp

The first nerve-wracking moment came at home, soon after I had finished my coffee. For the first time this season, reporters were allowed at Oracle Park, and that meant wearing a real outfit. 

No more writing from the couch in Lululemon sweats or basketball shorts. The ballpark requires real pants, a test that thankfully was passed.

As for the rest of the day? Well, it was weird. Good, but weird.

The general consensus among reporters was that it was great to be back at the ballpark, watching players and discussing actual baseball, not labor wars or health possibilities. But there's no getting around how different everything is right now. 

A team official was driving into the Oracle Park lot Friday morning when he suddenly hit the brakes. He reached down and grabbed a mask, putting it on before being around other team employees. There were masks everywhere Friday, and that was a huge positive. The Giants are taking this extremely seriously, as they must. They worked out in three different groups, with an equal split of pitchers and position players in each. They used both clubhouses to dress. Players elbow-bumped manager Gabe Kapler as they walked in, keeping their distance. 

In the three hours I was there, I didn't see anything that looked at all reckless. The Giants are trying to embrace their new normal.

"I think we need to stop kind of holding onto the past and understand what the new norm is and adjust to that new norm," pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. "Until we're told differently that's the way it's going to be. I think you have to put all the excuses aside and do what you need to do."

Everyone involved did that Friday, from players, coaches and staffers, to the media and the PR employees running the show, to the security guards stationed all over the yard. It was a weird day, but a positive start. Here's a running diary of it all from a beat writer's perspective (there's a picture version on my Instagram, which is linked above):

10:45 a.m. -- While waiting in line on the Embarcadero, I scan a QR code held up by a team employee and my phone loads a health questionnaire. This is the first step toward getting into the park every day. Later, as I walk through the gate, a security guard checks to make sure there were no red flags in my answers.  

11:03 -- A Giants employee drives past reporters on a golf cart, the back full of packages. He's trying to figure out where to go because his usual gate is closed. There were a few team employees who got lost because so many traditional walkways and doors are now blocked off to limit how many areas have to be cleaned. (By the way, this probably is not the season to send cards and balls to the ballpark hoping for a signature.)

11:07 -- I sign a waiver and get my daily credential. A hand sanitizer station is a couple of feet away from all of that. I've been covering the Giants full-time since 2012 and for the first time, I enter through the Second Street Gate. This is the media entrance this year, and my temperature is taken as my bag is checked. That's part of the daily routine for everyone entering the park. 

11:10 -- After walking up a few ramps I see the field for the first time and immediately hear Flo Rida's "My House." It's somewhat comforting to know that even in a year where the whole world has changed, baseball players still go back to their staples for workout music. 

11:24 -- As we all walk to the press box -- which now has seats that are more than six feet apart from others and an auxiliary area in the stands -- I stop to take a picture of a group heading from the cages to the clubhouse. You can see the Brandons, Evan Longoria, Donovan Solano ... uhh, I think also Joey Rickard and a couple other guys? It becomes apparent that it's going to be harder than ever to identify players doing drills far from the press box. 

12:00 p.m. -- Reporters are taken out to Triples Alley to get a better view -- and some sun! We get a good look at the scoreboard, where Kai Correa's daily schedule has moved from clubhouse TVs to a $10 million screen. There are cages in the left-field corner and also Triples Alley. The Giants might run drills in all three corners of the park at some point to maximize space. 

12:05 -- A group of relievers comes out to play catch. They're all wearing masks while walking, although they are taken off as they throw and run sprints. 

12:34 -- Ron Wotus meets with some coaches in center field, which answers one question that reporters have had. Some older coaches in other camps have been told they can't work on the field because of health concerns, but the 59-year-old Wotus looked to have no restrictions. Kapler said Wotus and Correa briefed the team during a Zoom call Thursday to go over how they're going to handle drills in a new environment. 

12:45 -- Pablo Sandoval arrives and brings his trademark energy as he crosses the field. The Giants will have to figure out a new way to celebrate with high-fives and hugs banned. Brandon Crawford said he's confident Sandoval and Hunter Pence will come up with creative solutions. 

12:55 -- In the concourse behind the press box, a security officer starts chasing after two guys walking up a ramp. They're not allowed to be there, he yells. Turns out the two are high-ranking members of the front office who are headed back from the field. I'm telling you, security is TIGHT. 

1:05 -- Samardzija becomes the first Giant to hold a Zoom press conference. He sits in front of a black tarp with an amused look on his face as reporters try to unmute themselves to ask questions. One asks him which habit is going to be the hardest to break.

"The spitting is going to be tough," he said. "When you're working and you're athletic, everyone knows there's a film that builds up in your mouth. That'll be tough, but again it's nothing that's hard. For some guys, it will be tough to not lick your fingers."

MLB is allowing pitchers to carry a wet rag to the mound to help with moisture.

"Water doesn't really help anyway," Samardzija said, smiling. 

Later, he drops a hell of a quote when asked about playing in front of fans. 

1:35 -- Crawford follows Samardzija on the call. 

"It definitely didn't feel like a normal day at the ballpark," he said. "I guess I'm used to this because I've been working out down at Scottsdale Stadium. This is kind of the schedule we had been working with down there in small groups, down there it was groups of four players at a time, throwing, hitting, running and taking groundballs. Basically what we did today other than groundballs."

Crawford confirms that the ban on spitting is going to take some getting used to.

"After we were running, that's something me and Longo and Belt were all talking about," he said. "We all kind of wanted to but we had to hold it back."

1:57 -- As I walk out of the park, I see some players from the second group heading down the street back to their hotel. They look like they've had a normal day, although there were other adjustments behind the scenes. Some found out Friday that while showering is allowed, you have to bring your own soap to the ballpark. Wall dispensers that were shared by multiple people are all a thing of the past. 

4:05 -- Kapler does his usual press conference by getting on Zoom from his office. He's wearing a mask still because other players and coaches are around the clubhouse. 

Kapler informs the media that Luis Madero has tested positive for COVID-19 and that Buster Posey missed the day for personal reasons. He says Tony Watson, who was said to be a little behind others because of spring shoulder tightness, "looked great."

[RELATED: MLB virus test results show importance of Giants' measures]

The day was unlike anything Kapler has gone through in his career, but he was happy with how it went. 

"One of the things that we asked of our players is to be flexible and understand that this camp is not going to be perfect because we don't really have any precedent for what we're all experiencing," he said. "It was much different than anything I've ever experienced, and at the same time, there was a lot of excitement about stepping on the field. It was a beautiful day at the ballpark. I think everybody was really genuinely happy to be there. We got a lot of good work done."