Here's the history of the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS.
1997 Marlins 3 Giants 0
September 30, 1997 was 5 days after my 27th birthday and Game One of the NLDS. It was our first postseason game since the Earthquake World Series sweep by the A's and my first ever playoff game seen in person. We got 4 hit, but took a 1-0 lead with a Bill Mueller homer to lead off the top of the 7th. At that point, a group of fans a few rows behind began to throw popcorn at me as I cheered. Our win probability after Barry followed with a double was 70%, but we stranded him there; the Marlins tied it in their half of the inning and in the bottom of the 9th, with 2 outs and the bases loaded, future Giant Edgar Renteria singled to walk us off. Thanks Roberto Hernandez! In recent years the Giants have traveled well, this was less the case in '97. In recent years, I've become more temperate when attending sporting events where mine was not the home team; this was less the case in '97. You ever been heckled by 40,000 people? I felt like Roddy Piper in '85.
Game 2 was the next night; I got stuck sitting behind the Marlins bullpen, got heckled all night, and was in a shoving match in the parking lot after the game. We scored runs in each of the first 4 innings, Barry doubled twice, but were still down 6-5 going to the 9th inning when two errors and a single tied the game. In the bottom of the ninth, future Giant Moises Alou singled to walk us off. Thanks Roberto Hernandez! Remember what I said about Roddy Piper? Yeah, that again.
The first Giants home playoff game in 8 years ended with a 6th inning Devon White grand slam off Wilson Alvarez. We lost 6-2 and were swept out of the playoffs.
2000 Mets 3 Giants 1
The Giants were the best team in baseball in 2000 with 97 pythagorean wins; at the time of this writing, in 2014, it remains the 4th best regular season team in San Francisco history.
My 2000 wasn't bad either - I spent September making multiple appearances on an ESPN game show, winning money based in no small part on my knowledge of San Francisco Giants history - my last appearance taped less than two weeks before what, by all accounts, looked to be the first step in the first ever World Series title for the Giants since the move west; that looked to be even more true after Livan Hernandez, backed by a 3 run Ellis Burks homer, beat the Mets 5-1 to open the series.
We then lost back to back one run extra innings games. 'Cause maybe we forgot how the NLDS works.
JT Snow hit a home run we'd still be talking about had the series ended differently, a 3 run shot off Armando Benitez to tie the score in the 9th, but Felix Rodriguez, still in the game despite giving up a 2 run homer in the 9th, did his best Roberto Hernandez impression, giving up back to back two out hits and we lost 5-4 in 10.
Game 3 went 13. Robb Nen came on with 2 out in the 8th but failed to protect a 2-1 lead; we left two on base in the 10th, 12th, and 13th - when Aaron Fultz gave up the losing homer to Benny Agbayani that you can still occasionally see on a highlight reel.
And then we got 1 hit by Bobby Jones in Game 4. Naturally.
2002 Giants 3 Braves 2
This season ended in a much, much more painful way than did '97 and '00 - but that wasn't true of this series, the Giants first win in the NLDS. The Giants had 98 pythagorean wins in '02, as of 2014, still the third best regular season team in San Francisco history, and on our way to the first NL pennant since the Earthquake, we beat the Braves.
The Giants split the first two in Atlanta; 4 doubles staked SFG to a 6 run lead through 6 innings and we held on to an 8-5 win. Kirk Reuter got bombed in game 2, giving up 6 earned in the first three innings and despite three homers the Giants lost 7-3.
Game 3 looked to be the knockout, in Pac Bell the Giants got smoked, 10-2,
Fortunately, Tom Glavine couldn't deliver the final blow, he gave up 7 earned in less than 3 innings, 3 on an Aurilia homer and the series was even with an 8-3 Giants win,
Game 5 in Atlanta.
Barry led off the second with a single (his OPS for the series was 1.233) and a two out hit by Reggie Sanders gave the Giants a 1-0 lead. Bonds led off the 4th with his third homer of the series to make it 2-0, and following a Braves run in the 6th, a Lofton sac fly made it 3-1 in the 7th.
You know how this story ends - the Braves put them on the corners with nobody out in the ninth against Nen, but Sheffield struck out and Chipper hit into a series ending double play. Benny Agbayani was nowhere to be found and the Giants were onto the NLCS.
2003 Giants 1 Marlins 3
A year later came the rematch from '97; we split the first two, Jason Schmidt threw a complete game 3 hit shutout in game one, but Sidney Ponson and a young Giant pitcher named Joe Nathan got lit up in game two.
I sat with my mother behind the Giants bullpen for Game 3 of the NLDS and saw us tie the game at 2-2 in the 6th, then leave 2 on in the 7th, leave a runner at second in the 8th, leave them on the corners in the 9th, leave two on in the 10th, take a 3-2 lead in the 11th, but leave men on 2nd and 3rd, having a 90% to win the game, and then Jose Cruz dropped that fly ball in the bottom of the inning - I felt like I was the only one in the stadium looking dead at him the whole way; you know how on a routine play your eyes can leave the ball - for whatever reason I looked the ball into...and out of Cruz's glove, and felt like I was a split second ahead of the entire stadium in recognizing what had happened. With the bases loaded and 2 out, Pudge Rodriguez hit a 2 run single to walk us off. That walk up the aisle and out of the stadium was among the longest of my life. Thanks Roberto Hernandez! (Roberto Hernandez was long gone, but I hold a grudge).
Game 4 is on the MLB Network list of the greatest games of the TV era; we were down 5-1 after 4 when Jerome Williams (we started Jerome Williams in an elimination game?) got bombed. We got them all back in the 6th, and took that 5-5 tie into the bottom of the 8th when Felix Rodriguez, just a year after his role in our blowing a 5 run Game 6 World Series lead, gave up two to put us down 7-5 going to the 9th. We quickly cut it in half, and had the tying run on with no one out in the 9th - two outs and a hit batsman later, JT Snow got thrown out at the plate trying to score on a base hit, maybe the only postseason series ever to end on a home plate collision. It was the last game I ever got to see with my dad; on the way home, I said we were never going to win the World Series.
2010 Giants 3 Braves 1
7 years later, I was wrong.
Tim Lincecum was once one of baseball's best pitchers; in game 1 he threw a complete game, 14 strikeout 1 walk 2 hitter. This was fortunate as the Giants only scored a run,
Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson were handed a 4-1 lead in the 8th the following day - and the Giants wound up losing in 11 on a Rick Ankiel homer.
3 Brooks Conrad errors gave us game 3; the last literally causing the game winning run to score to cap off a 2 run Giant 9th to give us a 3-2 win.
It took one more 2 run comeback, this time in the sixth, to give the Giants another NLDS win over the Braves in a season that would end in triumph.
2012 Giants 3 Reds 2
Matt Cain entered with a postseason scoreless streak of 21+ innings and he got beat in Game One. Cain gave up a 2 run homer to Brandon Phillips in the third. Baseball’s a data rich endeavor; there’s enough baseball history that we know even that early in a baseball game, that home run gave the Reds a 72% probability that they were going to win the game. When you’re watching game one of the NLDS and see that Phillips homer; if you say “not really a big deal, it’s the third inning of game one” – you’re wrong, you’re about to go down 1-0.
Which we did – Jay Bruce homered in the 4th and Cain was gone after five. Buster Posey, soon to be named NL MVP, homered to lead off the 6th, but when you’re down 3-1 with no outs in the bottom of the 6th, you still have only a 22% chance to win the game. Santiago Casilla took that 3-1 deficit into the ninth inning and expanded it giving up 3 singles and a wild pitch. Add in a passed ball and the Reds took a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th. We loaded the bases with one out against Aroldis Chapman, but only managed a run and lost game one on a Posey strikeout.
That ended a streak of 8 straight Giants Game One postseason victories; San Francisco had never won a playoff series after losing game one and the Giants organization hadn’t done it since ’21. That’s how quickly a short series can end – Phillips hits that game one 3rd inning homer and you’re in a hole the franchise hadn’t climbed from in more than 90 years.
And then we got 2 hit and lost Game Two 9-0.
Raise your hand if you had the Giants winning the World Series after Game 2 of the 2012 NLDS. I’m as big a Giants fan as I know, my hands are down.
Well, they’re at the keyboard, but you get the point. The season was over.
Ryan Ludwick homered off Madison Bumgarner in the second, and when the Reds got 4 singles in the 4th, scoring 3 more runs, their win probability went up to 89%. We had only a Brandon Belt single by the top of the 8th when Cincinnati ripped Jose Mijares and Guillermo Mota for five more runs. A Posey 9th inning double was our only other hit of the night. We were down 2-0 and traveling to Cincinnati.
9-0 was the largest postseason shutout defeat in the 130 year history of the Giants organization.
It’s over. Right? Come on. Only one team ever came back in a five game series after losing the first two at home, the ’01 Yanks. Our season rested on Ryan Vogelsong, with a career ERA in Cincinnati over 5.00.
We got only one more hit in Game 3 than we did in game 2. Do you see what I’m saying? We got 3 hit on the road in an elimination game.
How did the season not end there?
It got bad quick; 3 first inning singles and a walk got the Reds a run and moved them to 64% win probability for the ballgame.
We evened it up without a hit in the third on a walk, a hit by pitch, and a sac fly. When Vogelsong got through the bottom giving up only a couple of walks, it was the latest point in any game of the series so far that we weren’t losing.
This was not a close series is the point I’m making. We were getting our ass beat.
We didn’t get our first hit of the game until a Marco Scutaro single in the 6th; Scutaro had a terrific last two months since coming over from Colorado, but had done less than zero in the NLDS to that point; a quiet bat in a line of quiet Giants bats.
Jeremy Affeldt took over in the bottom and gave up a couple of baserunners – but that 1-1 tie remained until former Dodgers closer Jonathon Broxton got the ball in the 10th inning (if you’re unaware – the Giants don’t like the Dodgers.)
So, understand where we are –the Giants were getting one hit in Game 3 after getting two hit in Game 2, but greeted Broxton with back to back singles to open the 10th, by Posey and Hunter Pence (who was unable to get down a bunt earlier in his at bat). Back to back strikeouts looked to close out our inning – but a passed ball and a Scott Rolen error on a weak Joaquin Arias ground ball scored what would be the winning run. Scott Rolen is one of the great defensive third basemen of all time; 8 Gold Gloves, over 20 wins above replacement defensively for his career; he’d be a Hall of Fame candidate if the electorate understood the value of playing the type of third base that Rolen played. But that’s past tense, now Rolen is just a guy hanging onto a job that shouldn’t be his any longer; in this instance, taking advantage of former Giants manager Dusty Baker’s weakness for veterans and playing at the expense of NL Rookie of the Year Candidate Todd Frazier.
Sergio Romo locked down the bottom of the tenth – and we stayed alive.
We struck out 16 times. And got only 3 hits. All singles. In an elimination game. On the road. The Giants were 5 for 61 in games 2 and 3 for a batting average I don’t feel like computing, but it’s tiny.
How did the season not end there?
The Wild Card was added in ’95, 21 times a team had gone down 0-2 in the NLDS. 21 times that team had lost the series.
The Reds best pitcher in 2012 was Johnny Cueto, but he got hurt early in Game One, forcing a shuffling of the rotation – that meant using Mike Leake in Game 4 against Barry Zito, one of the all time biggest free agent busts in MLB history.
Leake wasn’t up to it. He gave up a leadoff homer to Angel Pagan to begin the game. The first postseason leadoff homer in the history of the franchise.
Zito wasn’t up to it. He walked three in the first to tie the score.
And it was game on. Gregor Blanco hit a two run homer in the second, we went up 3-1.
Zito gave one back with a homer to Ludwick, and after a two out walk to Dioner Navarro he was out of the game, replaced by George Kontos, who was replaced an inning later by Jose Mijares, who then gave way, with 2 out and 2 on in the 4th, to 2 time Cy Young Award winner and the very worst pitcher in the major leagues in 2012, Tim Lincecum.
He got out of the inning and then we opened it up in the fifth. Double by Arias. Double by Pagan. 4-2 Giants. And when Pagan scored after a sac fly, it was 5-2 Giants and we had an 82% probability to win the game and even the series.
Lincecum got the Reds in order in the bottom, but gave one back in the 6th. 5-3 good guys headed to the 7th.
Where we put it out of reach. Double by Arias. Double by Scutaro. Only his second hit of the series. A 422 foot two run homer by Sandoval. 8-3 Giants and that’s the final score. Lincecum threw both the 7th and the 8th, 4+ relief innings with six strikeouts for Lincecum, the winning pitcher for Game Four.
We had 8 extra base hits in Game 4. More than any game in the regular season.
Winner take all Game 5. Our first winner take all game in a decade.
That would be game 7 of the 2002 World Series. Not a great result that. The guy in the wristbands in the other dugout might remember.
In 130 seasons the Giants franchise never had a perfect game. Not Mathewson or Hubbell or Marichal.
If we had gone .500 in 2012, Matt Cain’s perfect game in June against the Astros still would have made it a memorable season. I assume you’re like me; somewhere around the fifth inning if your guy hasn’t given up a baserunner you start thinking about it and with increased excitement after each out. And eventually, hundreds/thousands of times, win or lose – that excitement fades. Matt Cain threw a perfect game in 2012, it was one of the greatest moments in Giants history and it would have made any outcome during the regular season worth it.
But the thing is we didn’t go .500 – we won the NL West and after consecutive road wins had forced a Game 5. Matt Cain on the mound against public enemy number one for Giants fans dating back to his brash days as a San Diego Padre when he (among other intemperate comments) signed a baseball “I Hate SF” Mat Latos. It wasn’t just rhetoric – Mat Latos has whipped us; 11 career starts and an ERA of 2.19.
So many deep breaths.
Both sides put two men on in the first – no runs scored.
There wasn’t another hit until the 4th, when both sides singled – no runs scored.
A dead even game in a dead even series going to the fifth inning of Game 5 – when we ended them.
Blanco single through the left side.
Crawford triple into the right field corner. His first hit of the series.
An error that made it 2-0.
Sandoval single. Bases loaded.
Posey hits a 434 foot grand slam. And it’s 6-0 and over. This was only the 4th grand slam in a winner take all double elimination game in MLB history. I lived in Ohio for many years and would take a trip to Cincinnati each season to watch the Giants come to town. I had some crappy nights at Riverfront. Every single one of them got erased in that moment; in some pocket of the space-time continuum a teenage version of me is taunting that entire Reds crowd. Loved it. Loved it.
Cain gave up 3 and the Reds left two on in both the 7th and 8th; Romo gave up 1… in the 9th at 6-4, with 1 out, 2 on and Jay Bruce up – there was a real white knuckle “did I celebrate too soon” moment – but the Reds were out of bullets; Romo survived a 12 pitch at bat, and the score held.
Somehow, someway – the Giants were alive.
2014 Giants 3 Nationals 1
There were other games in the 2014 NLDS aside from Game 2, but you'd be forgiven if none come to mind.
Game 1 was a game, for example. In Game 1, Jake Peavy (who took a no hitter into the fifth) and five relievers beat Stephen Strasburg 3-2. The Giants hit the ball all day long; a dozen hits, including run scoring singles by Panik in the 3rd, Belt in the 4th, and Posey in the 5th gave the club a 3-0 lead which Hunter Strickland nearly blew with two long...loooong homers in the 7th (now you remember which game this was). The Nats put the tying run in scoring position in the 8th, but Romo worked out of it and Casilla locked it down in the 9th to get Peavy his first ever postseason win.
Game 2 was 18 innings, nearly 6 and a half hours, with a John Isner home run off of Nicholas Mahut sending everyone home.
Here's my favorite actual fact about the game, as of that date, the longest game in major college history was 25 innings (a Texas reliever threw a totally reasonable 169 pitches) in 2009, Brandon Belt was Texas's DH. He also played in this game (you probably knew that already).
The Giants got a terrific, 7+ inning outing from Hudson (who started the only other 18 inning playoff game in history) who struck out 8, walked one and was totally forgotten at game's end; he was outdueled (baseball talk) by Jordan Zimmerman who left with 2 outs in the 9th and a 1-0 lead. He left after a Panik walk, giving way to Drew Storen, who allowed a single to Posey and the game tying double to Sandoval (Posey got thrown out at the plate).
Washington scored that run in the third, but then were shut out over the final 15 innings of the game, most notably by Yusmeiro Petit, who came on in the 12th and took the Giants all the way through the 17th inning.
In the top of the 18th, Brandon Belt (from the University of Texas) led off with a monstrous home run to (mercifully, cause that's a long, stressful day of baseball) off of Tanner Roark and Strickland finished it up in the bottom.
With a 35% Win Probability Added, Belt's home run, given the spot, is one of the biggest single moments in franchise history.
Madison Bumgarner, has in fact, lost playoff games. He got beat by Doug Fister in Game 3, 4-1, the critical moment being Bumgarner's two run throwing error in the 7th. Down 4-0, we put the first two on in the 9th, and eventually scored one of them for the 4-1 final.
Fortunately, the series ended the following night; Vogelsong came up strong to close out the Nats, going 5+ and giving up a run; we were up 2-0 on a couple of second inning singles, a walk, and a Gio Gonzalez error; Bryce Harper brought DC back, a run scoring fifth inning double and another gigantic homer off of Strickland in the 7th tied the game.
We won the series in the bottom, couple of singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out, Nats reliever Aaron Barrett threw a wild pitch scoring Panik with the winning run. Casilla put the tying run on in the 9th, but ended the game with a Ramos groundout.