For San Francisco Giants, Heart Was the Name of the Game


It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. That age old cliché has been used time and time again, every time an underdog looked across the field at their opponent. For the San Francisco Giants, despite being the reigning and defending World Series champions, they took their usual place as underdogs. And every time a new star player went down with an injury, that status grew, and grew, and grew.

More from Golden Gate Sports

Despite every bad thing that happened to them, every injury, every short start from an aged pitcher past his prime, every loss down the stretch that could have been the one to break their spirits, they never gave up. They weren’t the most talented team on the field, especially when injuries depleted them so profusely that five rookies shared a starting lineup at some points, but no one had more heart.

Unfortunately, that heart that was bigger than the Grinch’s after it grew three sizes that day wasn’t enough. They didn’t have the muscle to back up that heart. They were underdogs, as they’ve been throughout each of their past three World Series runs, and in the end, the underdogs fell. There wasn’t enough fight to overcome all the adversity.

The Giants watched on Tuesday night as the unthinkable happened, as the Los Angeles Dodgers, their bitter, storied rivals, handily beat them 8-0 to clinch the National League’s West division crown for the third straight year. The face of the archrivals, Clayton Kershaw, dominated with a one-hit shutout, striking out 13 batters to slide the final dagger through the Giants’ ribcage and into their heart.

The Dodgers were wheeling and dealing through the entire season, using their extravagant wealth to buy and sell players like they were stocks on the market. The Giants didn’t do that, instead opting to use their tried and true formula to add incrementally and rely on internal strength. That strength was sapped by players filling up the training room at an alarmingly high rate.

More from San Francisco Giants

Even still, the Giants entered the 157th game of the season with a chance. It was a slim, nearly non-existent chance, but it was a chance nonetheless. With a lineup that looked as lowly as their’s had, with a rotation that was aged and beat up, with a bullpen that was so overworked because of the rotation’s deficiencies, having any semblance of a chance would seem impossible.

When Joe Panik‘s inflamed back forced him out of the lineup, Kelby Tomlinson stepped in and played more than admirably upon his initial Major League call up. Tomlinson was not Panik, but he did his best impersonation. Untimately, it wasn’t enough.

When Nori Aoki went down (for the second time) because of a concussion, the Giants tried everyone in his stead. Gregor Blanco was hurt because of a concussion of his own. Brandon Belt shifted to left field for a short time, but he fell victim to the concussion pandemic. Juan Perez, Alejandro De Aza, Jarrett Parker, and Mac Williamson all got chances. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough.

When Hunter Pence found himself on the disabled list for the third and final time, Marlon Byrd was brought in from the Cincinnati Reds to offset some of the loss. He was fantastic as a Giant, knocking in runs at a great rate and racking up extra-base hits at a team-leading clip. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough.

Madison Bumgarner did his best to put the Giants on his back again, much like he did in the 2014 postseason. He lifted the team on his shoulders like he was Atlas lifting the Earth, but the pitchers around him weren’t up to a similar task. Despite Bumgarner’s best efforts, ultimately, it wasn’t enough.

The Giants’ lineup in their final game on Tuesday as postseason contenders featured four players who were in the opening day lineup: Angel Pagan, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Bumgarner. On opening day, Matt Duffy was a utility man. Byrd was in Cincinnati. Tomlinson and Williamson were both in Double-A. Kevin Frandsen was in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system after being released by the Washington Nationals. Whatever heart these nine players had was overpowered by a sheer lack of talent as the Dodgers bashed their way another postseason berth.

One or two of those injury losses could have been overcome. But the Giants were missing half of their lineup. Eventually, heart is not enough.

After Tuesday’s elimination game, manager Bruce Bochy reiterated how proud he was of his players. The players should be proud of how they fought, scratched, and clawed, despite being in over their heads while missing such star power.

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. For the Giants, their fight is immeasurable.

Next: Giants Have Been Officially Eliminated