Giants manager Bruce Bochy made out his starting lineup Saturday morning omitting one name for the first time in more than two years. With the Giants no longer playing for home-field advantage in the National League wild-card game, Bochy decided it was time – finally – to give Hunter Pence a day off.
That ended Pence’s major-league-leading streak of 331 consecutive games started, dating to Sept. 25, 2012. A Giants lineup featuring just two regulars beat the Padres 3-1, while Pence not being in right field at first pitch underscored the fact that the Giants were already turning their attention to their must-win on Wednesday.
“The only reason I play is to win the World Series,” Pence said Saturday morning. “And you’ve got to get to the playoffs to do that. Our fate is sealed, We’re going on the road. So Bochy (felt) that having a day off is going to be for the best, to get a little fresh. And I trust in Bochy.”
Bochy did send Pence up to pinch hit with two outs in the seventh inning of a 1-1 game, keeping Pence’s streak of consecutive games played alive at 382. Pence put a charge into the AT&T Park crowd with a sharp line drive to left-center, but Seth Smith tracked it down for the third out.
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The Giants broke the tie in the eighth. Gary Brown, who had collected his first big-league hit on a bunt single in the third, beat out an infield single on a grounder to shortstop Alexi Amarista. Amarista then gloved Matt Duffy’s grounder up the middle and flipped to Cory Spangenberg at second, but Spangenberg’s relay to first was wild and Duffy took second.
Padres reliever Dale Thayer intentionally walked Brandon Belt and then unintentionally walked Andrew Susac to load the bases with one out. Thayer struck out Pablo Sandoval in a pinch-hit appearance, but Brandon Crawford hit a broken-bat flare that fell into right field, bringing Duffy and Belt in with the go-ahead runs.
It gave Crawford 69 RBIs for the season – third most among N.L. shortstops – and 16 in September. He’s batting .371 this month after hitting below .200 in both July and August, with Bochy saying the shortstop is “swinging the bat as well as anyone” at the moment.
“Midway through August, when my average was pretty low, my goal was just to drive in runs and kind of help us out however I could,” Crawford said. “Not to say I gave up on getting hits. But I was more focused on trying to get guys in.”
Crawford and Belt were the only regulars to start for the Giants, with Belt putting them on the board in the first by looping a 68-mph curveball from Eric Stults down the right-field line for a double that scored Duffy. The Padres tied it in the fifth against Jake Peavy when Will Venable singled over Duffy’s head into right field, Spangenberg pulled a double down the right-field line and Yasmani Grandal lofted a sacrifice fly to center.
Peavy, who was under the weather the past few days, came out after five innings, having thrown 92 pitches in his final outing before a potential start next weekend in Washington in the National League Division Series. The right-hander finished the season by going 6-1 with a 1.35 ERA in his last nine starts, and posted a 2.17 ERA in 12 starts with the Giants.
“I hate to think where we would be without him,” Bochy said. “We’re getting a shot here because of what he’s done for us.”
For Peavy to pitch again this year, the Giants have to win on the road Wednesday behind Madison Bumgarner. They are still waiting to learn where that game will be. Both the Pirates and Cardinals lost Saturday, meaning St. Louis enters the season’s final day with a one-game lead in the N.L. Central. The winner of that division moves to the NLDS and the second-place finisher will host the Giants in the wild-card game.
Bochy said the lineup will look more normal in today’s regular-season finale, including Buster Posey catching after sitting out two games with back tightness, and Pence likely back in right field.