Well, that was painful. All day long I’ve been going through the very worst moments of the 2015 Giants baseball season. Now I’m angry, frustrated, and depressed, and soon you can be too! If I could do it again, I probably would have posted this “Worst Moments” list first and my “Top Moments” list second. But oh well, it’s too late for that now.
Something really stuck out when making both lists: many of the best moments of the year ended up not mattering, and several of the worst moments took place following good moments. For example, from yesterday’s “Top Moments” list, Khris Davis was originally ruled to have failed to touch home plate but after a replay review the call was overturned; Hunter Pence made a heroic return from injury, but quickly went back down with another one; Juan Perez’s unbelievable catch took place in a loss; Angel Pagan didn’t score after his leadoff “Gum Gate” triple off Craig Kimbrel; and San Francisco couldn’t hold the lead after Kelby Tomlinson scored the go-ahead run in the 12th inning in Atlanta after singling in his Major League debut.
This was essentially the story of the 2015 Giants. They were primed for another fairytale season, but in the end they couldn’t quite come through when it mattered the most.
Here they are, the 10 worst Giants moments of 2015:
10) Starling Marte Robs Home Run, Hits Walk-Off Home Run
This was during an extremely difficult part of the schedule that will henceforth be known as the “Stretch of Doom.” The Giants were forced to play 26 straight games (with just two days off) against teams with a record above .500. The game above was part of a four-game series in Pittsburgh. A win would have pulled the Giants to within a half game of L.A., but the loss kept them 1.5 back and gave the Giants a 66-57 record. San Francisco also lost the following day as Pittsburgh took three out of four in the series.
9) Giants Suffer Back-to-Back Walk-Off Losses to Padres in Critical Games
On consecutive wretched September nights in San Diego, the Giants essentially had to win. Instead, they suffered back-to-back, walk-off, 5-4 losses to the Padres. San Francisco had only slim hopes as the series began, but these two losses coupled with two Dodger victories moved the Giants to eight games back with just 10 games to play.
8) Nori Aoki Breaks Leg
It was the top of the first inning and just the second pitch of the game. It was June 20, and Aoki wouldn’t play again until July 27. Aoki was on a roll and was likely headed to the All-Star Game. This Carlos Frias fastball made Aoki roll on the ground in pain. Aoki was hit in the head (keep reading) shortly after returning from this injury, so this was more or less the last time he played regularly in 2015. Aoki had been a great addition and losing him was a major blow to the Giants.
7) Giants Swept on Sunday Night Baseball; Vogelsong, Bochy Ejected
Right after suffering some tough losses to the Marlins (hold on Justin Bour, we’ll get to you in a second), the Giants endured a miserable three-game sweep to the Nationals in Washington, D.C. In this final game, Ryan Vogelsong and Andrew Susac were having serious trouble getting on the same page in terms of pitch selection. To make matters worse, the home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi wasn’t giving Vogelsong anything close.
Want my personal opinion? I think Vogelsong was just as frustrated with Susac as he was with Cuzzi. Susac is no Buter Posey when it comes to pitch framing, and having to constantly go through multiple signs to arrive at the pitch he wanted to throw was visibly irritating Vogelsong. It all came to a head on this 1-2 pitch to Denard Span with no outs in the 5th inning. Vogelsong gave off some bad body language, Bruce Bochy started barking from the dugout, Vogelsong started walking toward Cuzzi, who told him not to, and Vogelsong was ejected.
In the full highlight, you can see Vogelsong said something to the effect of, “I didn’t say anything to you,” so again, I think he may have been frustrated with Susac and/or motioning to Susac and not to Cuzzi. Regardless, Vogelsong was tossed, Bochy was soon to follow, and the Giants suffered their sixth straight loss in front of a national television audience. Their record fell to 42-41 and they trailed the Dodgers by four games in the division.
6) Justin Bour’s Walk-Off Home Run
A mere four games prior, this happened. The Giants led 5-3 going into the 9th inning with Santiago Casilla on the mound. It seemed like a no-brainer victory. Three batters later, the game was over. Easily one of the worst losses of the year.
5) Aoki Hit in Head by Fastball; Giants Swept in Four-Game Series
This was the series in which the Cubs said to the Giants, “We’re better than you.” And it was true. There was no denying it after this miserable four-game sweep. Aoki getting drilled in the head mere days after coming back from his broken leg was just the cherry on top of this nightmarish sundae from hell.
4) Dodgers Clinch N.L. West at AT&T Park
Controversy! I have the Dodgers eliminating the Giants and clinching the division at AT&T Park as just the fourth-worst moment of the season. How can that be? I was at this game, and to be honest it wasn’t even that painful. It felt like a foregone conclusion at that point. The Giants had to win and the Dodgers had to lose something like their final eight games in order for the Giants to have a chance. Which, of course, didn’t happen. The real pain of losing the season happened in these final three instances…
3) Dodgers Sweep Early September Series
Just in case you weren’t sick of looking at Clayton Kershaw, here he is again. The Giants entered this three-game series in L.A. 3.5 games behind the first place Dodgers with 32 games to play. A sweep and we’ll be just a half game back, many of us were thinking optimistically. But San Francisco blew a 3-1 lead and lost the first game, 5-4, in 14 innings; they lost a Madison Bumgarner start, 2-1, in game two; and Kershaw pitched a complete game with 15 strikeouts for the sweep in game three. The Giants came into the series hopeful but left L.A. 69-64, on a five-game losing streak, 6.5 games back with 29 to play.
2) Giants Blow 6-0 Lead, Lose in Extras; Pierzynski a Hero
The Giants led this game 6-0 in the sixth inning, 7-5 with two outs in the ninth, and 8-7 in the 12th. A.J. Pierzynski homered to tie it with two outs in the ninth. Kelby Tomlinson debuted and scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 12th, but Vogelsong surrendered a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the frame and the Braves won, 9-8. This was immediately after a brutal loss in Texas and it was at the very beginning of the Stretch of Doom. It was Part II of the beginning of the end.
1) Pence Hits Into Double Play in Key Situation
Here we have the actual beginning of the end. This one hurt a lot. More than any other moment in 2015. It was the first series of the Stretch of Doom. The Giants had been 8-2 in their last 10 games. They were 57-46 overall, just 1.5 games behind L.A. This was the rubber game of the series. The Giants had overcome a 7-4, 8th inning deficit the previous night and won the game in extra innings. Hunter Pence had delivered a clutch go-ahead home run in the 11th.
The next day, the Giants were stifled all afternoon by Martin Perez, who was scoreless through 8 innings despite entering the game with an ERA over 7.00. The Giants finally rallied and got Perez out of the game in the 9th.
It was all set up for Pence, who was facing Sam Dyson, the man he took deep the previous game. The count was 2-0, the bases were loaded with one out, and the Giants trailed by only one run. A win would mean a series victory and a happy flight to Atlanta. It would be a positive beginning to a treacherous stretch. It would mean a 58-46 record. But instead, it all came crumbling down in a heartbeat. Pence bounced into a 6-4-3 double play and with it, the season started to unravel.
The very next night in Atlanta, A.J. Pierzynski and the Braves overcame the 6-0 deficit to win in extra innings. After the Giants won the next two in Atlanta, they were swept in the four-game series with the Cubs in which Aoki was hit in the head and essentially done for the year. Two weeks later, Starling Marte happened. Then the sweep in L.A. The Padres had their back-to-back walk-offs. And suddenly it was all over.
Looking back, this double play perfectly represented the Giants 2015 season. The bases were loaded with one out, down by just a run. There was a good hitter at the plate in a good hitter’s count. The Giants were primed to do something special. But just when we got our hopes up, it all went away abruptly.
In the end, when the Dodgers clinched the division, it didn’t even sting. The real pain of the lost season occurred in Texas, in Atlanta, in Miami, in Chicago. It’s never clear ahead of time what moments will define a baseball season. Baseball is so unpredictable in that way. Now, a new year is upon us, and a new baseball season is around the corner. It’s 2016—time to “get even.”