As Giants third baseman Conor Gillaspie came up to bat in the eighth inning Tuesday night, pockets of a sellout crowd at AT&T Park began chanting “Con-or! Con-or!”
After Gillaspie shot a single up the middle for his fourth hit of the night, those chants turned into giddier ones of “MVP! MVP!”
The Giants’ season ended with a stunning 6-5 loss to the Cubs in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday night, and perhaps no player had a better case for wanting it to continue than Gillaspie, who went from bench player to the Giants’ best hitter over an improbable last few weeks.
Inserted into the lineup the last week of September due to Eduardo Nunez’s hamstring injury, Gillaspie went 7 for 14 in his final five games of the regular season. In the postseason, he compiled eight hits in 19 at-bats, including the winning home run against Mets closer Jeurys Familia in the wild-card round and a momentous two-run triple off Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman in Game 3 of the NLDS.
Tuesday night, Gillaspie became the first Giant since Pablo Sandoval in 2012 to record four hits in a playoff game. His run was such that, as the Cubs brought in Chapman to protect a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, the team’s Twitter account posted the message: “*Checks to see if Conor is due up*”.
In a quiet clubhouse after the Giants’ loss, though, Gillaspie painted his last few weeks in a broader perspective.
“The personal stuff is great,” Gillaspie said. “But I think what made any of my hits matter were big hits that allowed us to keep playing, and I’m proud of that. As far as everything else goes, I’d have traded all of it to still be playing.”
To that end, Gillaspie’s October likely positioned him well for next year. The 29-year-old former first-round pick of the Giants re-signed with the club this spring as a nonroster invitee and ended up playing in 101 games during the regular season, mostly in a reserve role. The Giants can tender a contract this winter to Gillaspie, who is arbitration-eligible, and bring him back for a possible bench or platoon role.
“I hope so,” Gillaspie said. “That’s not really for me to decide. But all you can ask for is a good opportunity with somebody, and this organization was nice enough to believe in me and give me that opportunity, and threw me out there the last two weeks of the season with an injury (to Nunez).
“I’m proud of that. I’m proud that they have trust and faith in me to step in and do a good job. So moving forward, we’ll see what happens. I hope I get another opportunity. This is by far the most fun I’ve ever had in my career playing.”
Gillaspie said he did note the crowd chanting his name Tuesday night, calling it a “pretty cool feeling.” At times this postseason, he said, he was “so locked in” that he did not notice details, such as the location of the pitch he homered on against Familia and where his triple off Chapman ended up.
When the Giants’ playoff run ended abruptly, Gillaspie said he was “shocked.”
“There’s really nothing you can say; it just didn’t work out,” he said. “They got some big hits, too. What are you gonna do? They might win it. That’s a good team.”