Brandon McCarthy has pitched 221 games in the major leagues, none of them in the postseason. He has played for four teams that appeared in the playoffs, but he never appeared in them.
This would be his fifth chance — not a good chance, but a chance nonetheless. The Dodgers had clinched the National League West, and they offered him an audition Friday, for a spot as a long reliever on the playoff roster.
He is 33, and a dozen years into his major league career. The chances are increasingly precious. This one is all but gone.
After the Dodgers got five solid innings from Rich Hill, they asked McCarthy for a couple more. He could not deliver even one out.
The San Francisco Giants scored seven runs in that sixth inning, good for a 9-3 victory over the Dodgers. McCarthy faced six batters and gave up six runs, on five hits and a walk.
"It was so fast and so violent that I don't know what kind of emotions to take from it," McCarthy said. "They just kind of hit everything."
The result was important to the Dodgers, and critical to the Giants. For the Dodgers, the loss left them with one faint chance for home-field advantage in the division series. Unless the Dodgers win Saturday and Sunday, and the Washington Nationals lose both days, the NLDS opens in Washington next Friday.
For the Giants, the victory kept them one game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals for the final wild-card spot in the NL. Even better, after ace Madison Bumgarner held the Dodgers to three runs over 7 1/3 innings Friday — beating them for the first time in five tries this season — he is in line to start the NL wild-card game Wednesday on regular rest.
The game was a bit chippy, what with Giants catcher Buster Posey taking exception to something Hill appeared to say and Dodgers reliever Josh Ravin later brushing back Posey. Hill said he punctuated a big strikeout with intensity and emotion, and he was celebrating rather than taunting Posey.
"No ill will towards Buster whatsoever," Hill said. "It was just the moment."
Puig and Bumgarner had no words with one another this time, but Puig was one of several players to take exception to the generous strike zone of plate umpire Andy Fletcher.
In the eighth inning, Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell was booed off the field after hitting Giants first baseman Brandon Belt on the hand with a pitch.
Hill, in a final tuneup for what will be his first postseason appearance in nine years, gave up two runs in five innings. Hill finished the regular season with a 2.12 earned-run average in 20 starts overall, and a 1.83 ERA in six starts for the Dodgers.
McCarthy inherited a 3-2 lead to start the sixth. He walked the first batter and then gave up two singles, two doubles and another single. When Ravin relieved him and gave up a three-run home run to Belt, McCarthy had given up six runs on no outs, and his ERA in this injury-delayed and injury-interrupted season rose from 3.60 to 4.95.
The relief appearance was McCarthy's first since 2007, and Manager Dave Roberts credited McCarthy for his willingness to try a relief role.
"I feel for him," Roberts said.
McCarthy said he hoped he would remain under consideration for a postseason spot and said he had not considered the emotional impact of possibly missing out on a playoff roster yet again.
"It's probably too much to think about," he said. "Let's take care of what I can today and make tomorrow better. I haven't really gotten wrapped up in the larger picture of it."
Until that crazy sixth inning, the San Francisco fans had one buzz-worthy moment to share.
That occurred in the fourth inning, when a couple of purported animal activists dressed in blue shirts scampered onto the field and attempted to hand flowers to several San Francisco players.
Bumgarner waved his glove at one of the intruders, swatting him away like a fly. "Don't look at me," read the look in Bumgarner's eyes.
The interloper then loped toward home plate, where Posey shoved him to the ground.
"He probably should have been charged with a flop," Posey said.
The guy got up, undaunted, and headed to the outfield.
Left fielder Angel Pagan, who had removed his glove, extended his hand as if he were going to accept the flower. Then Pagan grabbed the guy and slammed him to the ground, earning a raucous ovation from the crowd.
After the inning, as he ran toward the Giants dugout, Pagan got another ovation and doffed his cap. Even his teammates loved that he body-slammed the intruder.
"Well, I don't think it took much for that particular guy," Bumgarner said, "but it was fun to watch."