Giants score giant ticket to postseason

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Graphic illustration by Lauren Liu

The Giants advanced further in the MLB season than in past years.

Youqi Huang

The Giants overcame several years of mediocrity this season, boasting a 107-55 record during the regular season and finishing at the top of their division to earn a spot in the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Following a Game 5 loss on Oct. 14, the Giant’s postseason dreams were over, but what made the season great endures.

The last time the Giants made the postseason was in 2016, when they won their Wild Card game against the St. Louis Cardinals but lost to the eventual World Series champion, the Chicago Cubs, in the NLDS.  At the start of the 2020-21 season, expectations were low from fans, commentators and bettors alike, with some expecting 100-1 odds for the Giants to win the World Series.

Instead, the Giants not only recorded a marked improvement from their previous seasons, but also set multiple records in the majors. Their 107 wins was a franchise record, as well as the most in the majors during the 2020-21 season. The Dodgers were close behind with 106 wins, making their NLDS matchup significant not only because of the two teams historic rivalry but also as a showdown between the two teams with the strongest regular season performances.

“When the Dodgers came to town around Labor Day weekend, their records were very close, but the Dodgers had the momentum and people believed they were going to take the lead,” Assistant Principal and long-time Giants fan Eric Wong said. “Then, the Giants beat them in two out of three games in that series, and from that point you’re like this team has ‘it’ — the feel of a sports team that can do big things.”

Other fans were brought around with consistency. Senior Gavin Hsu and AP Government teacher Mike Williams, both big Giants fans, needed time to believe that the Giants’ early success was more than a hot streak, and it was around the middle of the season when they were convinced that the team had a chance to reach the postseason.

“I started to feel like the Giants really had a chance after May,” Williams said. “It started to feel like 2010, 2012 and 2014: the years when they reached the World Series. There was something about the team that was kind of magical.”

Their success was in part due to team chemistry: Strong performances from all players, instead of reliance on a handful of stars, helped the team lead the National League in home runs, even though they were often scored by different players. There were 17 players who finished the regular season with more than five home runs and 18 scored by pinch-hitters.

The Giants didn’t lack star players either: Multiple players were selected for MLB’s annual All-Star Game, including Kevin Gausman, Brandown Crawford, long-time catcher Buster Posey and Kris Bryant, who was traded from the Cubs this summer. Players like Posey, Crawford and Brandon Belt used their experience as veterans to guide the team.

“One of the main strengths for the Giants is their President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi,” Wong said. “I have full faith because of the players he chooses, and he doesn’t hold on to players if they’re not performing well. The Giants had depth and a lot of very good players this year.”

The NLDS meeting between the Giants and Dodgers was tense, with the two teams reaching Game 5 tied 2-2. Indeed, in the 9th inning of Game 5, they were tied at a run each, but the Dodgers scored the game-winning run thanks to an RBI-single from Cody Bellinger. The Giants’ offense in the inning was ended by a controversial check swing call against Wilmer Flores, which unfortunately ended their postseason run.

“When the Giants entered the postseason, I thought they would go all the way,” Hsu said. “I think a lot of people are upset with the way they exited because pretty much everyone unanimously agreed that the play Flores struck out on shouldn’t have been called a strike. Regardless, I think the team is good enough to make another run next year, so I’m not too down about it.”

The Dodgers exited the postseason in Game 6 out of seven in the National League Conference Series against the Atlanta Braves, who advanced to the World Series finals to face the Houston Astros. Their exit was a surprise for many, especially because they won the World Series last year.

“I would argue that the Dodgers lost the NLCS because they were wasted after we took it out of them,” Williams said. “They were tired after the Giants took them to five games in the NLCS. The Dodgers’ pitchers’ arms were dead.”

Despite the Giants’ heartbreaking end to the season, their success until this point deserves recognition. A continuation of this strong form will spell success in following seasons as well, but only if Giants fans are patient with their team.

“I think they have a great trajectory,” Williams said. “They’re coming off a year when they won so many games, and that team is largely sticking together. This could be the start of two, three or four years of Giants dominance.”