It was the bottom of the ninth, and Ariel Vargas, 50, couldn’t sit anymore. Vargas, Mission-born and raised, was glued to the game, surrounded by friends at a table at Lupulandia Brewing. All evening, the group had watched, breaking into optimistic drum rolls during at-bats, screams of joy when the Dodgers grounded out to first, and groans of pain as Cody Bellinger’s hit in the top of the ninth put the Dodgers up one.
As the Lupulandia television screen showed Wilmer Flores gearing up for a swing, someone in Vargas’s party glanced at his phone and announced loudly — “The L.A. Times reported it: 2 to 1. This must be the out.”
Oh, the pain. After watching the Giants through their best season yet, it was all gone. “They played good, but not well enough. It was tied for so long,” said Vargas, already reminiscing about Darin Ruf’s “beautiful” home run in the sixth inning.
His friend, Joaquin Chavez, headed straight to the bar. “I’m going to need a drink,” said the 42-year-old. “That’s wack. I want a refund.”
Chavez said he had been all prepared to celebrate on 24th and Mission. “Now, I get to leave at 10 p.m. and be happy and sad.” Happy, he clarified, because it was cool to see the rivals head off for the first time in the postseason. “I hate the guys in blue; they’re just a little better than us today. Just today,” he emphasized.
Vargas agreed. “The rivalries are fun and games; [the Dodgers] are the team we love to hate. We laugh along with our Los Angeles folks when they tease us,” then he narrowed his eyes, and “we comfort them when they lose.” Still, would Vargas want the Dodgers to win it all? “Hell, no. I still cheer for whoever’s against them.”
The Mission after 10 p.m. was eerily quiet. The few crowds of Giants fans walked up and down Mission Street in near silence, looking somewhere between heartbroken and humbled. Some cussed out the Dodgers over cigarettes, while others conceded the ultimate rivals played a better game.
“Very sad. This is stress-ball at its finest,” said Melissa Funk, 36, who was commiserating with some fans outside Beauty Bar. “I think we just wanted a win so bad because it’s been a hard time. But it’s also classic Giants ball, where you’re tense.”
Mario Alberto Silva, the Grammy award-winning trumpeter, was nursing a drink at Napper Tandy and texting back and forth with his friend, Mike Olmos, another well-known trumpet player. But Olmos is a Dodgers fan. For years, they’ve managed to find a happy medium.
“It was everything I expected it to be. It’s always a nail-biter against the Dodgers. It just is,” he said.
Then, as with any heartbreak, comes the analysis. One tosses and turns and wonders what went wrong. For some fans, it was clear.
“It went down exactly how we all feared: they’re playing small ball, low scoring. You know, bunts. They’re trying to keep the score down,” Alberto Silva said.
Matt Bonar, 43, felt similarly. “I’m feeling really sad,” he said. “The pitching was good for the Giants, and the Dodgers got a few over us.”
But Jake, a Bernal Heights native who works for Jamestown Community Center, cut in with a little more edge. “I think they should’ve taken out Webb earlier,” he countered. “To be honest, the Dodgers played way better than we did. They did their shit. I hate to admit it, but they did their shit.”
All Beauty Bar patrons outside appeared at least slightly buzzed. One woman passed by and yelled, “Say Meg from Beauty Bar says, ‘fuck the Dodgers!’”
Alfonso Alvarez, 28, grew up in the 22nd and Mission streets building that burned down in 2015. Tonight’s game was the first time he’d been in the neighborhood for a while, but it was good to be back. Then came the game.
“It’s a tough game to swallow,” Alvarez said, referring to Flores’s check-swing strikeout. “It was a very controversial end. I think the [umpire] should’ve let it go and continue. Let it be [an out] on a swing or a pop-up.”
Others found it a way to rally the community. Shawn Camacho, owner of Prubechu, projected the game on his wall. He enjoyed how Giants and Dodger fans assembled for the big game. Camacho said he’s a “big time” baseball fan, but “this is it. I only watch the Giants. I don’t see any other team, unless they play the Giants.”
Panayotis Strusaz and Pete G. were standing in the alley outside El Nuevo Frutilandia on 24th Street near Lucky Avenue, where they have celebrated each Super Bowl, World Series Championship, and the occasional barbecue.
“I think that we fucked up. Yeah, it would have been really nice to have a win for the city,” said Pete G., who was “born and raised right here.”
“I think major league baseball got it wrong because they had the two best teams playing each other right away. I think this series would have been better if it was the World Series,” Strusaz said. “They had the two best records, and then they made them play each other … you know, it is what it is.”
But Strusaz was able to find a silver lining. “The expectations for the Giants weren’t that big. Nobody even thought the Giants were going to get this far, and then they had the best record. I mean, you got to be happy. You got to look at the positive side,” he said.
Win or lose, the results mean… absolutely nothing in the scheme of things. But when damming with faint praise, it does beat heroin for coping with life.
Let’s do it again next year… only better! No shame for the Giants playing a hell of a season.