Pence feels good about momentum over final month
Hunter Pence connected for his 26th home run of the season in the third inning on Friday night. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants would prefer to be playing for more than pride this weekend. They expected so much more than that.
But at least they can rattle up to the pride recycling center and collect this: They will not join the 1998 Florida Marlins as the only defending World Series champions to finish in last place.
They were assured no worse than fourth after beating the San Diego Padres 7-3 Friday night, courtesy of the Colorado Rockies’ loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.
In fact, at 75-85, the Giants matched the Padres for third place in the NL West. Believe it or not, under the old postseason payout system, there would be some share money at stake.
Oh, but there’s money to be made. Hunter Pence, who is going to get a big payout as a free agent, snapped an 0-for-27 streak while setting a career best by hitting his 26th home run. It came in the third inning, two batters after Brandon Belt’s career-best 17th homer, a two-run shot, snapped a tie.
And Juan Perez hit his first big league home run in the second inning, too.
That was enough support for Ryan Vogelsong, who didn’t sneak many pitches past the Padres but rode contact outs to get through six innings and end a difficult season on a determined note.
Starting pitching report
Vogelsong did not blow away the Padres. He struck out three in his six innings and only got three swing-throughs on his fastball. He has just 10 strikeouts over his last six starts.
And 10 of his 18 outs were either fly balls or line drives to the outfield, many of them well struck.
But Vogelsong did what he does best. He battled while holding the Padres to a pair of runs. Tommy Medica hit an RBI single in the first inning, but Vogelsong struck out Jesus Guzman to strand two others. The Padres got another run in the third when Chris Denorfia walked and scored on Jedd Gyorko’s double.
Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford combined on a relay to throw out Gyorko trying to stretch for third, which might have saved Vogelsong a run and surely saved him some pitches.
Vogelsong battled again in the fifth, walking Denorfia after Will Venable’s two-out double and then retiring Gyorko on a fly out to right field. He had one more stand to make in the sixth after Nick Hundley drew a two-out walk to put runners at first and second. Pitching coach Dave Righetti came to the mound for an extended chat, almost surely to tell Vogelsong that he was facing his last hitter of the season.
Alexi Amarista, who nearly spoiled Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter in San Diego, worked the count full on Vogelsong and fouled back one pitch before hitting a sharp lineout to left field.
Vogelsong picked up his first win since Aug. 25 and finished 4-6 with a 5.79 ERA in a season that started off rocky and then got worse when his pinky finger was dislocated and crushed when hit by a pitch May 20.
He had another scary moment in the fourth inning, when a Burch Smith pitch brushed him back.
Vogelsong ended up throwing just seven quality starts out of 19. Now the Giants must decide whether to pick up his $6.5 million option or try to renegotiate something that includes a lower base with incentives.
Jean Machi pitched the seventh inning but Heath (don’t call him Keith, Starbucks baristas!) Hembree got in a wee bit of trouble in the eighth.
Just a few hours after GM Brian Sabean called Hembree the most intriguing rookie on the club, the right-hander’s 0.00 ERA was under direct threat. In his seventh career appearance, he allowed a single and a ground-rule double to start the eighth. But Santiago Casilla kept the rookie’s perfect ERA by pulling a great escape.
Casilla issued a walk before striking out Jesus Guzman, then he deftly fielded Nick Hundley’s comebacker to start a 1-2-3 double play.
Javier Lopez began the ninth and pinch hitter Logan Forsythe led off with a home run that slipped over the center field fence. Amazingly, it was just the second home run Lopez has allowed in 3 ½ seasons as a Giant.
That’s right. Two home runs. (The Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez hit the other one last year.) Lopez has appeared in 236 regular-season games and faced 605 batters as a Giant, by the way. Plus 29 more in the postseason.
No wonder they want to re-sign the guy.
At the plate
The Giants hit three home runs in a game at AT&T Park for just the second time this season. Back on May 12, Belt joined Pablo Sandoval and Marco Scutaro in a game against the Atlanta Braves.
The Giants have hit 105 home runs this season – two more than they hit last year.
The Giants added a run in the sixth when Gregor Blanco drew a bases-loaded walk.
It wasn’t a great game for Blanco on the bases, though. He was thrown out trying to stretch a single leading off the first inning. And he was picked off first base after hitting a single in the fourth.
Blanco was thrown out a third time on the bases in the eighth, but you couldn’t blame him for the last one. He hit an RBI triple that split the gap in right-center, and nearly evaded the tag at the plate while trying for an inside-the-park home run – something that’s long been on his bucket list.
Perez contributed a grass-skidding catch of a fly ball in shallow center field, proving that it’s possible to fill a highlight tape despite playing just 200 defensive innings in a season.
The Giants announced 41,103 paid on Fan Appreciation Night. If any big screens went unclaimed, hey, I can be back in 10 minutes with a minivan.
The Giants and Padres continue their three-game series at AT&T Park on Saturday. It’ll be Yusmeiro Petit (4-0, 2.84) against left-hander Eric Stults (10-13, 3.94). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PDT.