SAN FRANCISCO -- Before the Wild Card Game, Bruce Bochy was asked an odd question about going through a postseason without Pablo Sandoval. He laughed it off, saying Sandoval had not been with the Giants for two years, and they no longer gave him much thought.
As it turned out, the Giants did have a Sandoval this October. Conor Gillaspie played the part of fearless slugger, laying waste to pitchers with far bigger names and much longer resumes. He had four hits Tuesday, becoming the first Giants since Sandoval in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series to record four hits in a postseason game. The veteran finished with eight hits in 19 postseason at-bats, including the game-winning homer off Jeurys Familia and the series-shaking triple off Aroldis Chapman.
Gillaspie has found a second life in the big leagues, and he'll enter next spring as a lock for the bench and a possibility for a platoon of some sort with Eduardo Nuñez. He didn't want to think of any of that Tuesday. He didn't really care about the stats.
"I would have traded them all in to just be playing," he said. "I would have liked to just keep playing."
The Giants won't play another game this year. The bullpen collapsed in the ninth, ending a season that seemed destined for greatness before the All-Star break and collapsed afterward.
"It's a tale of two seasons, the first half and the second half," Bochy said. "But I think what I'll remember is how they bounced back and found a way to get in there, to get to the wild card and that game. And this series was ... they played well against a very good ballclub. And we were so close to heading to Chicago. We had our guy Johnny (Cueto) going. So this, it's a tough one. There's no getting around it, to end it like this.
"We really would have liked to have had a shot there in that fifth game. But you give them credit. They threw out some good at-bats against us."
There will be time to analyze what just happened and look ahead. Management will meet with the media on Thursday, and questions will be asked about the inability to ever fix the ninth and the plan to do so going forward. As always, please follow along here on our site and on Twitter (@AlexPavlovic) for all of that. For now, let's empty the notebook one last time ...
--- Brandon Belt was always one of the first players at his locker, in good times and bad. He was the first to speak tonight, and here was his instant reaction, a few minutes after the season ended. "It's pretty crappy. I don't think in any situation you ever feel like the game is over until the final out is over. We had a lot of fight in us. They had a little more. They're really, really good. They weren't ready to quit tonight."
Brandon Crawford called it a "punch in the gut," adding, "It happened pretty quickly. That's the way it went." Crawford came an inch away from hitting a two-run homer. Hunter Pence took an odd path on the play and nearly got thrown out. He said he thought the ball had cleared the wall, so he went back to second to make sure he touched the base on his way home.
--- In the game story, I touched on the decision to pull Moore. It's a call Bochy might look back on, but he made the right move. If you can't get three outs with a three-run lead and your whole bullpen available, well, then you really should be at home anyway. Moore said you always want the ball as a competitor, but he also made it clear that all involved felt his night was over.
"Everyone kind of knew (the eighth) was my last one," he said. "We didn't really have a conversation about how I felt. I was at 120 or so. We have guys who can get the job done. This is the way baseball goes sometimes."
Maybe it won't help much given the way this one ended, but Moore's performance is a huge confidence-booster for the organization going forward. With Madison Bumgarner, Cueto, Moore, Jeff Samardzija and (maybe) Ty Blach ready to go next April, the Giants should be as deep pitching-wise as anyone. Matt Cain might get another shot, too, and Tyler Beede is on the way.
--- Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez are among the free agents. Given the way he was booed late in the regular season, and the fact that Bochy didn't even hint at using him tonight, it seems clear that Casilla's time here is done. Romo said he would "love to be back," but he doesn't know what will happen. Lopez, the 39-year-old, seemed headed for retirement all season long, but he struck a different tune Tuesday.
"I don't know what's next for me," he said. "I'm a free agent and we'll see what happens. If I have the opportunity to come back, I'll welcome that."
--- Two relievers who visibly seemed to take this one hard: Hunter Strickland and Derek Law. Regardless of what the Giants do, those two will be part of the late-innings mix next year.
--- The Giants cleared out as soon as the final pitch was thrown. Nobody stuck around the dugout to feel the pain, or get any motivation. "It's not fun," Belt said. "I had no intention of sitting there and watching them."
--- Pence said losing a postseason series with the Phillies helped make him the competitor he is today. "Sometimes the pain of losing in a playoff series is a very beautiful thing, a motivator," he said.
--- A tip of the cap to the Cubs, who were the best team all season long and now will get a shot at the Nationals or Dodgers. As the Giants reload, they will need to keep one eye on Chicago. With their young, loaded roster, they're the team to beat moving forward. Everyone talks about Bryant and Rizzo and Russell, but Javy Baez might have been the best player in this series. The sequence with the near-out at first base and the ridiculous tag on the stolen base attempt was as good as it gets defensively.
The Cubs handled this night with class. Joe Maddon called the Giants' run of elimination wins "crazy ... crazy good."
"I do want to congratulate the Giants," he said. "Listen, I've known Bochy for a long time. I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for him and how he does things and this entire organization. I have a lot of friends in this organization. I actually had the pleasure of meeting Willie Mays before the game today, which was really special for me.
"So for us to be able to win today, it's like I said, to beat you guys in this ballpark is not easy. The way (the Giants) do things, I think it's very admirable and a great example for the rest of the industry."