Self-surviving Giants send Mets home three bucks short

Gillaspie, who'd just hit the slider near the ceiling over the right field fence for three and, ultimately, a date between the Giants and the Cubs . . .

Gillaspie, who’d just hit the slider near the ceiling over the right field fence for three and, ultimately, a date between the Giants and the Cubs . . .

The Mets survived everything thrown at them in 2016 and came up three bucks short. The Giants survived themselves and, at the eleventh hour, punched their ticket to Chicago for a division series showdown with the Cubs.

And until Jeurys Familia threw the wrong pitch to a no-name number eight hitter named Conor Gillaspie, who had to step in for injured Eduardo Nunez late in the season, the National League wild card game threatened to go to extra innings and maybe beyond no matter who might be the last man standing on the mound.

The calls of the wild and a wild Dodger ninth

Gonzalez launches the game winner . . .

Gonzalez launches the game winner . . .

You could hear Dodger Stadium groan in the top of the third Monday night. An unearned Giants run that began with a steal and ended with a wild pitch was not supposed to happen when the Dodgers—behind Clayton Kershaw, yet—got crack number four at Madison Bumgarner this season.

You could hear the ballpark groan a little through the howls as the Dodger seventh ended, and Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig had a little debate following the inning-ending out Puig made on a checked-swing infield grounder. A debate apparently provoked by Bumgarner himself.

The Dodgers’ opening shutout streak was fun while it lasted . . .

Hunter Pence and Company

Hunter Pence and Company: Joe Panik (12), Denard Span (2) and Angel Pagan (16) greet Pence as he finishes his grand slam circuit . . .

All good things must come to an end, even in baseball. But so must all bad things, in due course. For the San Diego Padres, the latter can’t happen soon enough. For the Los Angeles Dodgers, the former happened a little too soon for comfort.

The Padres at this writing remain in search of their first run of the season. Presumably, they’ll take it any way they can get it when they meet the Colorado Rockies this weekend. Preferably right out of the chute, just to have done with it.

Monte Irvin, RIP: The nice guy finished first, after all

Monte Irvin taking a swing for the Giants, circa 1951 . . .

Monte Irvin taking a swing for the Giants, circa 1951 . . .

If the decision had been up to the Negro Leagues’ club owners and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Monte Irvin would have been the first African-American to re-break baseball’s unconscionable colour line in the 1940s. Irvin—who died Monday night at 96, following a long and distinguished baseball life—was the one who turned the opportunity down.

Ishikawa, from Giant pennant-winning bomber to recovering Pirate

Ishikawa, from Giants glory to gone from the Giants . . .

Ishikawa, from Giants glory to gone from the Giants . . .

How much does it hurt to go from pennant-winning hero to gone in what’ll seem like a blink soon enough? Travis Ishikawa is about to find out the hard way.

He’s going back to the Pirates the same way he left them in the first place last season, a waiver claim. The Giants, his first organisation, picked him off the waiver wire a year ago April and got better than they’d bargained for last October. Now the Pirates have taken him back, after the Giants designated him for assignment Friday.

Joe West has game—unfortunately

Torii Hunter and Joe West, who aren't likely to be sitting down to dinner together any time soon . . .

Torii Hunter and Joe West, who aren’t likely to be sitting down to dinner together any time soon . . .

God knows (as does His servant Casey Stengel) that I had better things to write about on the day after Opening Days. Things like Nationals’ shortstop Ian Desmond calling second baseman Dan Uggla (yes, Virginia, that Dan Uggla) off a by-the-book popup, dropping the ball, allowing the Mets first and second, leading to Lucas Duda busting up Max Scherzer’s no-hit bid with the two run single that made the difference in the Mets’ win.

Al Rosen, RIP: Heart over vision

Rosen (far left) with Martin and Steinbrenner, before the Billy & George Show sent Rosen scurrying.

Rosen (far left) with Martin and Steinbrenner, looking none too thrilled, before the Billy & George Show finally sent Rosen scurrying.

When Gabe Paul bolted as the Yankees’ president, exhausted by George Steinbrenner’s machinations, Steinbrenner had just the man to succeed him: Al Rosen, the one-time Cleveland third base star and a minority partner in the Yankee ownership.

There were those who thought the personable Rosen—who died 14 March at 91—was just the right guy to neutralise the tensions between two time bombs named Steinbrenner and then-Yankee manager Billy Martin. Including Martin himself. “Al played the game,” Martin told reporters. “He understands what it’s like. Gabe got in the way. He didn’t know the game.”

The Cubs showed Lester more than the money

This was Jon Lester helping the Red Sox win the second of two World Series while he pitched there. Guess what Cub Country hopes he'll do for them some time in the next six years?

This was Jon Lester helping the Red Sox win the second of two World Series while he pitched there. Guess what Cub Country hopes he’ll do for them some time in the next six years?

In the end, there was more to Jon Lester’s signing choice than the dollars in his own pocket. A man doesn’t take the second-best offer on the table because he’s only in it for the money. Lester himself made the point after the meeting that finally turned him into a six-year, $155 million Cub.

The Red Sox corral a Panda

That was then: His third bomb of 2012 World Series Game One. This is now: The Panda goes to Beantown . . .

That was then: His third bomb of 2012 World Series Game One. This is now: The Panda goes to Beantown . . .

Yes, Giants fans. It will be a little strange to think of the Giants taking the field in 2015 without Pablo Sandoval at third base. It is a little strange that, when it came down to the proverbial nitty gritty, Kung Fu Panda ended up signing practically the same deal with the Red Sox that the Giants ultimately offered. Until you look past the raw numbers and the raw years, that is.

The Royals execute a Game Six slashout . . .

Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas

Escobar (2) and Moustakas (8) enjoy scoring on shuttlecocks as well as bullet hits . . .

Hands up to everyone who expected Game Six to be a blowout on either side. Join the club, I didn’t expect it either. So let’s be reasonable, consider the source, and call what the Kansas City Royals did Tuesday night a 10-0 slashout.

Now, hands up to everyone who thought the Royals would hang up a seven-spot in the second inning Tuesday night. Join the club, I didn’t expect that, either.┬áBut there they were. The Roach Coach’s windows were wiped, the oil was changed, the tank was filled with fuel, and the Royals sent it into runaway train mode before the San Francisco Giants had a clue to what was hitting them.