SAN FRANCISCO — As part of a dramatic remodel this offseason, the Giants changed the shape of their clubhouse. The new room is more of a square, replacing the long rectangle that was at times such a cramped spot for postseason celebrations.
The change was made in part to make the room a better fit for team meetings, the type you might hold before an elimination game in the postseason, the type that would start with Bruce Bochy pulling out one of his favorite stories and end with Hunter Pence inspiring teammates as he stalked the room. There was, in fact, a meeting late Tuesday night as October neared, but this wasn’t the type in mind when the sledgehammers started ripping up the old clubhouse.
Bruce Bochy pulled his team together after an 8-0 loss that eliminated the Giants and he conveyed a clear message. This group will not repeat this October, but there are few reasons to have regrets.
“I just talked to the guys briefly and told them how proud I am of them," Bochy said. "Four concussions, three obliques — and here we are on Sept. 29. They fought. They never stopped and I felt good about that. To go into the last week and still be in it, I’m proud of these guys.”
With their backs against the wall, the Giants turned to a lineup missing four key starters. The second baseman who made a crucial error in the first inning spent most of his year in Triple-A. The right fielder was acquired in August because Pence made just 52 appearances this season. The left fielder was on a fishing boat two weeks ago. The first baseman was hanging out with his three-month old daughter five days ago.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Kershaw outduels Bumgarner, Dodgers win NL West]
The result, with world’s best pitcher bringing his best from the other side, was predictable. Clayton Kershaw pitched a one-hitter and struck out 13 to vault the Dodgers into the postseason for a third consecutive year. In two starts against the Giants this month, Kershaw pitched 18 innings, gave up one run and struck out 28.
“The numbers he puts up are unparalleled, really,” Buster Posey said. “I’m not the greatest history buff, but it’d be interesting to compare his seven or eight years to anyone else’s seven or eight. I’d imagine they stack up pretty well.”
Kershaw’s resume — which holds a glaring hole under the ‘postseason’ header — will likely put him in the Hall of Fame one day. Madison Bumgarner may join him, but on Tuesday, Bumgarner didn’t quite have enough to push this race along for one more day.
Kelby Tomlinson’s error in the first inning led to a run and put 26 pitches on Bumgarner’s ledger. He gave up a solo shot in the third and was pulled after two more in the sixth on two consecutive pitches. Bumgarner said the first one, a 67 mph curveball that Justin Ruggiano hit out, was the first slow curve (a weapon he went to often last year) he had thrown in four months.
“It obviously was a bad time to do it right there,” he said, shaking his head and briefly smiling.
Another offering wouldn’t have made a difference, not with Kershaw headed for an easy shutout. Bumgarner hoped to match him, but he admitted that he might have pushed a little too hard.
“I was probably a little more emotional tonight than I would have liked to have been,” he said.
Bumgarner calmly walked out of the visiting bullpen in Kansas City last fall and ended the season. On this night, his mind was stirring. He thought of the Giants being up against the wall and of the rivalry. He thought of how intense this time of year is. The juices were flowing, and it showed when Kershaw grounded out after a 13-pitch at-bat and Bumgarner screamed in anger.
There was little emotion on his face when Bochy came to get him in the sixth, and after a night of rest, the two will meet with pitching coach Dave Righetti to decide what comes next. Bumgarner reached a career-high 218 1/3 innings on Tuesday night and he has thrown 488 1/3 in the last 18 months. There seems little reason to have Bumgarner throw another pitch, especially now that he can’t reach 20 victories.
“I haven’t spoken with them,” Bumgarner said of the staff. “We’ll get to that tomorrow or whenever. That’s the last thing on my mind right now, at least for me.”
If tonight was Bumgarner’s last on the mound this season, he’ll have followed up a historic postseason run with a season that should have him in the fourth or fifth slots on many Cy Young ballots. Bumgarner has 234 strikeouts — the third-most all-time for a Giants lefty — and tied a career-high with 18 wins. He has a 1.01 WHIP and 2.93 ERA. So much for that workload last October being a problem, right?
“Bum had a tremendous year,” Bochy said. “What a great year. He gets to look at this year as another great year for him. There were questions about his workload last year and would it catch up, and he threw all these beautiful games. He’s special and he should be proud of his year.”
Posey said simply that Bumgarner is “unreal.”
“It’s hard for people to understand how taxing (last year) is on the body,” Posey said. “It’s a testament to his work ethic. It’s something he should be proud of. I’m proud of him.”
The Giants will waltz into the even year knowing that their ace is as healthy as ever and in his prime. The lineup, one of the best in the majors for so much of this season, should be healthy and dangerous. Thanks to this series of injuries, the bench should be a force, too. Players like Tomlinson, Jarrett Parker, Trevor Brown and Mac Williamson have stepped in to fill holes and have performed admirably.
“They didn’t play like kids,” Bochy said. “They played like men.”
The rookies will be counted on as depth next year, and they’ve been served well by this month spent chasing an unlikely division title. Even Tuesday’s Dodgers celebration came with a silver lining. The Giants weren’t bothered much by the fact that it came on their turf. They viewed this loss another way.
“You’ve got to take that and just remember that going into your offseason,” Bumgarner said. “Everyone here needs to remember that. It’s not a fun feeling. We have to take that into the offseason and have it give us a little fuel for next season.”