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Had the ball been a foot in either direction, it could have been the winning hit.

“Very heartbreaking,” said Cepeda, who was on deck when the game ended. “Even though we had a great team, it wasn’t a close unit. Something was missing from that ballclub.”

The Giants won the division in 1971 but lost to Pittsburgh in the NL Championship Series. They didn’t make it back to the postseason until 1987, a stretch in which their biggest moment might have been Joe Morgan’s homer on the final day of the ‘82 season to beat the rival Dodgers and give Atlanta the division title.

Then came weak-hitting Jose Oquendo’s home run in Game 7 of the 1987 NLCS that helped St. Louis overcome a 3-2 series deficit. There was the earthquake that interrupted the Bay Bridge series in 1989 halfway through Oakland’s sweep of San Francisco, three first-round losses to wild-card teams during the Bonds era and, of course, the 2002 World Series collapse.

The Giants were up 5-0 in the seventh inning when manager Dusty Baker removed Russ Ortiz. Scott Spiezio greeted Felix Rodriguez with a three-run homer and the Angels scored three more in the eighth to win the game. They ultimately took the series in seven.

“You go back to Will Clark’s era, of course Bonds, they’ve had some outstanding teams,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It goes to show you how hard it is to do this. They’re very much aware it’s been a while. It’s never happened in this city, but you’ve got to keep your focus on winning the game and not get caught in it.”

Cepeda has played for or watched almost every Giants team in San Francisco and says that this team might have the ingredient some of its more talented predecessors lacked.

“Of all the teams that played in the World Series, ‘62 was the most talented. It had more talent than the 2002 team,” he said. “This year, with less talent, I have never seen a team that comes with so many close games as this ballclub. The last three weeks of the season, every game was close. That’s why I think they can win this year. So many teams have big names, but this team has no superstar and won the close games. That’s a good sign.”

Pat Burrell, who grew up in the Bay Area, won a title with Philadelphia two years ago and was in attendance as a fan in 2002 when the Giants won Game 4 to even the series.

Now he gets to be on the field to help this year’s version do what others have been unable to for the team he grew up supporting.

“Just knowing the city and the history here, it would mean a lot to me, my parents, my family and millions of others in this area,” Burrell said. “We enjoy that part of it.”

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AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.