A checked swing? An actual swing? Giants fans across the Bay Area were beyond angry/sad/bummed/rageful after first-base umpire Gabe Morales made a controversial call to end Thursday night's winner-take-all Game 5 in the National League Division Series against the Dodgers. And that anticlimactic heartbreaker of an end to the ninth inning is likely to linger painfully for a while.
There were two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the night, with Dodgers star pitcher Max Scherzer doing closer duties and Wilmer Flores at bat. Flores appeared to check his swing on a Scherzer slider, but Morales ruled it a swing and abruptly ended the Giants' bid for the National League pennant race — also bringing a wah-wah ending to what was a historic postseason matchup between century-long rivals. Had Flores gotten a base hit, the game would have been tied, with Kris Bryant on third. Had he knocked it out of the park, it would have made history and the Giants would have bested the Dodgers like they did in the late-season, legendary games of 1951 and 1962.
But no, instead, we have an end to the season on what was clearly a bad call.
To Dodger fans, this was karma: What many Dodgers fans say was a missed call on a third-strike checked swing/actual swing by Darin Ruf in a July 22 game led to a heartbreaking loss for them, so it's only fair. As Ruf said Thursday night of Flores's checked swing, "It didn't look like he went but a checked swing early in the year helped us out too. It’s kind of funny how it comes down to those two events."
What did Morales have to say after the game?
"Check swings are one of the hardest calls we have," Morales said, when asked about how he felt about the call after seeing the replays. "I don’t have the benefit of multiple camera angles when I’m watching it live. When it happened live, I thought he went, so that’s why I called it a swing."
Kind of a bitter pill to swallow for Giants players and fans when the umpire doesn't sound that confident in his own call.
As KPIX reports, umpire chief chief Ted Barrett also stammered when asked about the call, and whether Flores's swing was really a swing.
"Yeah, no, we, yeah, yeah, he [Morales] doesn’t want to say," Barrett said.
Barrett also told reporters, "We talk about [checked swings] a lot in our meetings because it is one of most difficult calls. We try to get all on the same page as a staff that we’re all trying to call the same thing. But by the rule book, it just says did he offer at the pitch? So there’s some ambiguity there, but we do our best to try to be consistent so the players know what’s a swing and what’s not."
Gabe Kapler tried to keep it classy in the post-game press conference, pointing out that the Giants had a few blown chances with runners on base earlier in the game.
"Super tough," Kapler said. "Yeah, I mean, obviously you don’t want a game to end that way. I know these guys work really hard to make the right call, so it’s super challenging on our end. Obviously it’s going to be frustrating to have a game end like that, but a pretty high-quality hitter at the plate that can climb back into that count, it’s no guarantee of success at the end of the at-bat. It’s just a tough way to end it."
Kapler continued, “There’s no, for especially right now, there’s no need to be angry about that. I just think it’s just a disappointing way to end. There are other reasons we didn’t win today’s baseball game, so that was just the last call of the game and, yeah, that’s enough.”
So, the Bums head to the pennant race against the Braves on Saturday, and Giants fans will likely be watching ANYTHING else, including CSPAN, until it looks like the Dodgers might be losing.
Top image: Wilmer Flores #41 of the San Francisco Giants strikes out on a checked swing for the final out of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the ninth inning in game 5 of the National League Division Series at Oracle Park on October 14, 2021 in San Francisco, California. The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants 2-1. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)