By Doug Bruzzone
Special to S.F. Examiner
AT&T PARK — The Los Angeles Dodgers came into Friday night’s game as a good team on the margins of the playoff race, fighting to play in October.
The Giants came into Friday night’s game as a bad team, long eliminated from the playoffs, with injuries and ineffectiveness having hobbled their offense.
Baseball had no tricks to play on either team Friday, and the Dodgers won 3-1.
Before the game, the Giants honored closer Will Smith as the winner of the 2018 Willie Mac Award, given annually to the team’s most inspirational player.
“It means a lot because it’s voted on by your teammates and coaches. You’re with these guys every day for seven months. For them to think that of you, it’s really cool to be that winner,” Smith said after the game. “Just to be in the same breath as Willie McCovey and then win that award, it means a lot just from the kind of guy he is.”
Smith gave a short speech thanking his teammates, and then the Giants handed the ball to their battery, both winners of the award themselves.
2017 Willie Mac Award Winner Nick Hundley opened and closed the scoring for the Giants with a second-inning solo homer — a towering drive down the left field line that just cleared the fence — but 2014 Willie Mac Award Winner Madison Bumgarner, making his final start of the season, couldn’t make his one run of support hold up.
Bumgarner worked through trouble in the first inning, striking out Matt Kemp to end a two-on, two-out threat from the Dodgers. He wasn’t so lucky in the third, giving up a run on a walk and two singles. In the fifth, Los Angeles took the lead for good.
After a Kiké Hernandez single up the middle, Justin Turner launched a booming home run to left center to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead, a death blow to a Giants team that had scored more than three runs in only six of 23 games in September.
“Just a fastball up and in. It wasn’t terrible,” Bumgarner said of the pitch to Turner. “Didn’t get in as much as I would like, but I’ve still beat him with that pitch quite a few times. Even with the spot it was … he’s a smart hitter. He made an adjustment and got to it.”
Hernandez has been a nemesis to Bumgarner over the last few years. Coming into Friday’s game, he had a .444 career average in 36 at bats against Bumgarner with four home runs, and he continued his hot hitting ways by going 3-for-3 against the big left-hander, and scoring two of the three Dodger runs.
“It’s obvious he sees the ball pretty good [off Bumgarner],” said manager Bruce Bochy. “It goes with the game itself. Certain hitters have success off certain pitchers.”
It was a decent, though unspectacular, end to a fine season for Bumgarner. After coming back from the broken pinky he suffered at the end of spring training, Bumgarner got back to his old self, finishing the year with a 3.26 ERA in 129 2/3 innings. While admittedly his strikeouts have been down and his walks have been up compared to earlier in his career — never positive signs for a pitcher — overall it was another successful year for the Giants’ ace.
It was not a successful night for San Francisco, though, for all the same reasons that their second half has been so miserable. The offense sputtered, the early energy in the stadium died down after Turner’s home run and the team grounded into double plays in the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth innings, and again in the ninth to end the game.
“[Bumgarner] found a way to give us a good start there. We just couldn’t get a hit,” Bochy said. “The double plays, that’s what killed us. Five of them.”
Additionally, outfielder Austin Slater exited the game in the fourth inning with a strained elbow. The elbow has been bothering him for most of the month, but after he tried to throw Hernandez out at the plate in the third inning, the pain got worse than it’s been anytime this year. The extent of the injury is not yet known, and Slater will have an MRI on Saturday.
The one solace for Giants fans hoping not to see the Dodgers clinch the division was that the first-place Colorado Rockies won their game against the Washington Nationals earlier in the day, maintaining their one game lead in the NL West with two games to play.