If you have to say goodbye to baseball for another year, and it appears you do, then bidding farewell at the end of a wonderful, wild and weird game is the way to go.

There's nothing easy about giving up on the idea of a third straight World Series, or a second championship in that stretch, but the Phillies didn't give up easily on their end of it, either.

At the end against the Giants on Saturday night, as they tried to survive in order to merely face another possible elimination the following day, the Phils were doing what they always do. They were trying to win and hating to lose, even though the trying wasn't enough and the losing finally overtook them. It would be nice to add that they went down swinging, but that wasn't quite the case.

So, that's how it came to a sudden stop, even as this week's forecast for the opening of the World Series sounded so perfect for October in Philadelphia. The Giants won the game, 3-2, and won the league championship series in six games, advancing to play against the Texas Rangers in a World Series that will be largely ignored by the viewing public.

It will certainly not hold much luster here.

Tense baseball doesn't have to be flawless baseball, and the first seven innings of Saturday night's game were as imperfect as a secondhand suit. The action was a little tight around the infield, a little loose around the plate, and a little worn by the pressure of what was riding on the outcome.

There were wild pitches and errors and hit batters and great catches and almost-great catches and, just for dramatic effect as always, a little pushing and shoving in one of those bench-clearing dances that baseball likes so well.

The Phillies invented several opportunities to win the game but couldn't get a patent on actually scoring the runs. If the way they were eliminated was disappointing, based on how the season went, it wasn't that surprising.

"We had chances, we just couldn't cash in," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It was a good game, but we came out on the short end of the stick and they deserved to win."

While there's no proving it, or disproving it, Roy Oswalt wasn't as good in this start as he was in his previous start against the Giants, and perhaps his relief stint on Wednesday in San Francisco had something to do with that.

He mostly scattered the nine hits he allowed, but he did bunch three of them in the third inning, when the Giants scored twice to tie the game. He could have gotten luckier there, of course. Shane Victorino almost made a Willie Mays-quality, over-the-head catch of a deep drive to center by Andres Torres, but never quite corralled the ball before juggling it off the fence.

With Oswalt spent and sputtering after six innings, the Phillies needed two innings of relief work from Ryan Madson to get them to Brad Lidge in the ninth. Like the Giants, they were threatening, but also like the Giants, it was the threat of lightning in the distance that doesn't get any closer.

The Phillies jumped on starter Jonathan Sanchez in the first inning as they took a 2-0 lead, but those would be their only runs of the night despite putting another seven runners in scoring position. The game turned when Madson, trying to squeeze out that second inning of relief, put a cutter in the middle of the plate to Juan Uribe with two out in the eighth and Uribe sliced it into the first row of the stands in right field to give the Giants the 3-2 lead. Jayson Werth, as he ran toward the wall, was screaming at the fans to stay back and give the ball a chance to hit something, and they listened and held back, but the ball didn't listen at all and limped over the low fence.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy tried to use ace starter Tim Lincecum to pitch the eighth and bridge the gap to black-bearded closer Brian Wilson. Lincecum got a quick strikeout, but then gave up two singles and Bochy figured the bridge was burned. He went to the bullpen right away, putting the ball and the game in Wilson's right hand. The Giants were luckier than they were good. Carlos Ruiz scalded a line drive the other way, but it was right at first baseman Aubrey Huff and he easily doubled Victorino off second. Should Victorino have held up? Easier said than done. He already had a sizable lead and simply took a fatal step when the ball was hit. It happens.

And then the ninth inning happened, with Wilson closing out the game and the Phillies' season. The last pitch was too close to take, but Ryan Howard took it all the same. Some things aren't meant to be.

That's the way to look at the ultimate dream of this season. Not meant to be. It was a pretty good party, though, and quite a game that finally turned on all the lights for last call.

If you have to go, that's the way to go, and the Phillies apparently had to go.

Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com.
Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford