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Giants fail to lock up West, preparing for 'meaningful' finale

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Gabe Kapler sat down in the press conference room at Oracle Park about 10 minutes after the Giants lost 3-2 in extra innings, and about an hour before the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers would begin their game at Dodger Stadium. He said he wasn't quite sure where he would watch it, but he was quite emphatic about what he felt was ahead of the Giants. 

"We're expecting to play a meaningful game tomorrow. That's it," he said. "Obviously we'll pay attention to the Milwaukee-Los Angeles game, but we're expecting that tomorrow's game is going to be the one that we need to win."

The Giants are set up well, or at least much better than they were on Saturday when a win would have clinched the NL West. Kapler admitted after the game that right-handers Tyler Rogers and Dominic Leone, two of his top relievers, were not available. Jake McGee, activated on Saturday morning, was not quite ready to be thrown into the fire in a close game.

Rogers and Leone will be back in the mix Sunday, potentially trying to back Logan Webb, who has been one of the National League's best pitchers since May. He will go up against Reiss Knehr, a 24-year-old righty who has a 3.57 ERA in the minors this year but a 4.85 ERA as a starter and reliever in the big leagues. 

That is a huge advantage for the Giants on paper, but they seemed to be in a good position on Saturday, too. Kevin Gausman looked like the All-Star who dominated the first half and the Giants gave him an early lead against a team that had to deal with pregame rumors that manager Jayce Tingler will be fired when the season is over.

 

But the Padres kept coming back, and the Giants kept coming up short at the plate. That made this a close one, and that was a problem for the Giants. Gausman was at just 84 pitches through seven one-run innings, but his hand was cramping up and he was replaced by Zack Littell. In an inning that would ordinarily go to Rogers, Littell gave up the tying run.

The game went to the 10th, with the Padres getting a two-out, two-strike double from Jake Cronenworth giving them the lead. The Giants have written an unbelievable story this season, and it seemed they were set for one last twist in the bottom of the inning. 

Mark Melancon, the most notorious addition to the team during the lean years, came on with the tying run on second and Buster Posey waiting in the on-deck circle. Steven Duggar struck out, Posey grounded out, and Wilmer Flores flied out. 

The air was sucked out of a sold-out Oracle Park in a matter of seconds, and players wore somber looks as they walked off the field. They had hoped to charge through the front door and clinch the West with an eighth straight win, and it seemed most had not given much thought to how they would handle Saturday night if they lost. 

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Kapler said his guess was that he would stay in the clubhouse. Gausman said he planned to go home but would be up for coming back to the ballpark if players wanted to celebrate. Longoria, one of the leaders of the clubhouse celebrations this season, said he wasn't sure. His focus was elsewhere. 

"We've kind of been in the driver's seat the whole year and really focused on us and what we can control," he said. "The only thing we can control is tomorrow's game. If we win, we're in. We'll worry about celebrating whenever that happens."

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