SAN FRANCISCO – It was with an eye already on 2014 that the Giants wound down their season Sunday with a walk-off 7-6 win over the San Diego Padres on a hazy afternoon at AT&T Park. Before the game, they formally announced a five-year deal with right fielder Hunter Pence, with right-hander Tim Lincecum next on the agenda.
Pence's deal, which will keep him in a Giants uniform through 2018, became official after Pence passed a physical – seemingly a formality for a player who Sunday became the first Giants player since Alvin Dark in 1954 to start every game of the regular season. Hours later, Pence sent the Giants into the winter on a high note with a game-winning single off Padres closer Huston Street in the ninth.
In a pre-game news conference, assistant general manager Bobby Evans said the sides were in talks for a month, and the Giants did not want to let Pence enter the offseason without a new deal. Pence said he also felt a sense of urgency to reach an agreement.
"Signing Hunter back is as much about the future as it is the message that this sends the clubhouse," Evans said. "As they depart today, they're getting a very strong message about not only the commitment of this organization, but they're getting a very strong message from one of their key leaders, Hunter Pence."
Various news outlets have reported the deal is for $90 million, a number Pence said will not change his approach to the game. Pence started all 162 games in right field for the Giants this season and has been nicknamed "Full Throttle" by manager Bruce Bochy for his "all-out" playing style.
"I understand the responsibility of what comes along with five years, a pretty big investment," Pence said. "And it's not going to be taken lightly by me."
Team president and CEO Larry Baer reiterated that the timing of the deal was important, saying it "sends an important message (that) when today's game concludes, we're going to be all about making the Giants as good as possible for 2014."
As general manager Brian Sabean indicated Friday, next on the Giants' list is reaching out to Lincecum's camp, which Evans said the Giants have already done. Lincecum, entering free agency for the first time, has said he is "trying to be open-minded" about where he will pitch next season.
"Hopefully, there's an opportunity to bring Timmy back in short order," Evans said. "That's our goal. We don't intend to wait. If Timmy's willing to work with us right now, we'd like to do that. And that's the impression that I'm getting is that they'd like to work with us."
Pence received a loud ovation from the AT&T Park crowd when he appeared on the field for pre-game warm-ups. The Giants then rallied from a 6-2 deficit before a crowd of 41,495, which extended the team's regular-season home sellout streak to 246 games. With the win, the Giants finished in a third-place tie with the Padres in the National League West.
"I think these guys really wanted a piece of third place," Bochy said. "They didn't die. They kept grinding."
Even as both teams finished 76-86, some drama remained. With two outs in the eighth, Bochy summoned Barry Zito from the bullpen to face Mark Kotsay, his former teammate in Oakland, in most likely Zito's final appearance as a Giant.
Zito struck out Kotsay on an 84-mph fastball and left the mound to a standing ovation. As he neared the dugout, teammates pushed him back out, and Zito put his hands over his heart and waved with chants of "Bar-ry" raining down.
"That was surreal," Zito said. "I mean, that was more adrenaline than the World Series.
"I was telling the boys when I got to the dugout, better watch out. I'm making a name for myself as a lefty specialist."
The Giants could not escape the season without one last negative. In the ninth, left fielder Gregor Blanco had to be helped off the field after colliding with center fielder Angel Pagan as both chased Will Venable's triple into the gap in left-center.
The Giants said Blanco has a sprained right ankle. X-rays came back negative, and Blanco will undergo an MRI today. Shortstop Brandon Crawford injured his right oblique on a swing and will have an MRI on Tuesday.
Francisco Peguero replaced Blanco. And with the Giants trailing 6-5 going into the bottom of the ninth, Peguero led off by hitting his first career home run off Street. The Giants then loaded the bases with no outs against Street for Pence.
Pence worked a full count. Street threw a high fastball, and Pence lofted it to center, into the area left open by the Padres' decision to play a fifth infielder.
"You couldn't have written the story better today," Bochy said.
The Giants rushed out to mob Pence in one last celebration that, while perhaps less significant than those of recent memory, seemed no less sincere.
Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015, and read his online reports at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball.