SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy admitted he thought twice before putting Buster Posey in the lineup for Sunday's regular-season finale against the Padres, after Posey had sat out the previous two games with back tightness.
"He told me he wanted to play (Sunday) and I was, to be honest, a little concerned if he was healthy," Bochy said. "But he showed it with that first swing."
On the first pitch he saw after two days off, Posey lined a two-run home run into the left-field seats against Padres left-hander Robbie Erlin, getting the Giants' offense going in a game they ultimately won 9-3.
Posey played three innings and then rested, as did Pablo Sandoval. Hunter Pence exited a few innings later, but came back onto the field after the game to deliver a rousing speech thanking the AT&T Park crowd for their support. That crowd had plenty to cheer about in a four-run seventh inning, and in the ninth, Bochy summoned his son Brett to get the final three outs of the regular season.
All around, it was a positive sendoff for the Giants before they fly Monday to Pittsburgh, where they'll play the Pirates in the N.L. Wild Card game Wednesday. The winner heads to Washington to open the Division Series against the Nationals, who high-stepped into the postseason Sunday with a no-hitter from right-hander Jordan Zimmerman.
For a game with no consequence to the Giants' playoff circumstances, Sunday had quite a few mini-storylines. One was calming any concerns about Posey, who afterward said that the past two days he "was tired, probably like a lot of people, but I think I would've been fine to play in the games that I sat out." Others included:
Chris Heston's first major-league start began on a rough note. The right-handed gave up four consecutive singles to star the first inning and trailed 2-0 when he retired Seth Smith on a sacrifice fly for his first out. Heston, though, struck out Rene Rivera and got some help from Brandon Crawford on a diving stop up the middle to escape the first.
"I was a little nervous to be out there for the first time," Heston said. "Once I threw strike one I kind of settled down, but a lot happened pretty quick, and Crawford made a crazy good play for me to get me out of it."
After that, Heston seemed to settle down a little, retiring the side in order in the second and allowing one more run on Yasmani Grandal's single in the third. He departed after four innings having thrown 77 pitches, with a lead but not qualifying for his first win.
"I hated taking him out in the fourth with the lead," Bochy said. "But with him not getting a lot of work (lately), I didn't want to overtax him."
Heston, who went 12-9 with a 3.38 ERA in 28 starts at Triple-A Fresno this season, still said the outing was valuable experience.
"To get out there and face a lineup a couple times and kind of see how it all works, get to work with Buster and stuff, I think there's a lot I can take out of it," Heston said. "It gives me something to work for over the winter. (Getting) a start in the big leagues, it definitely gives me a little drive to try to get some more next year."
From the first pitcher Sunday to the last. With a 9-3 lead and wanting to rest his regular relievers for the postseason, Bochy brought in son Brett to pitch the ninth. Brett Bochy recorded the last three outs on two strikeouts and a line-out to center, throwing the final pitch of the regular season.
"Pretty special," Bruce Bochy said. "For him to be out there and finish this last game, it's a moment I won't forget."
Brett Bochy got into three games as a September call-up and allowed two runs but only one hit in 3 1/3 innings. He said the overall experience was "awesome. You've got all these veteran guys around, you see the chemistry in the clubhouse, it's been great."
When Brett made his big-league debut a couple weeks ago, the manager gave him the lineup card. After Sunday's game, Bruce Bochy said: "This lineup card, I will save."
"Yeah, I got the first one," Brett said with a grin. "So he can have that one."
There's a possibility that when Bochy pulled Sandoval after the third inning, it marked the final appearance by Sandoval in a Giants uniform at AT&T Park. Sandoval will be a free agent after the season, and there has been little news during the season about talks between the Giants and the third baseman's camp.
Sandoval's popularity in San Francisco can be measured by the number of panda hats that still dot the landscape at AT&T Park. But Bochy said he didn't think Sunday about taking Sandoval out mid-inning, giving the crowd a chance to cheer him, given the uncertainty of the parties' future.
"I don't think like that," Bochy said. "Shoot, I love Pablo and I hope things work out, trust me. But that thought didn't cross my mind to be honest. You're hoping both sides get something worked out, but right now our focus has to be on Wednesday's game."
Sandoval, for his part, said he wasn't thinking like that either.
"I'm looking forward to the game Wednesday," he said.
Bochy said a couple interesting things in passing after the game. For one, he indicated that if the Giants beat the Pirates and advance to the NLDS, Jake Peavy will start Game One in Washington on Friday. That would make sense, as Peavy went 6-1 with a 1.35 ERA in his final nine starts of the regular season.
Bochy also said that he told "the kids" in the bullpen Sunday they might get some work because "we weren't going to use Casilla, Strickland or Romo." Grouping Strickland, a late call-up, with the Giants' top two right-handed relievers gives an indication of how quickly Strickland has ascended to a key role in the Giants' bullpen.
Travis Ishikawa had another smooth game in left field, and Bochy strongly suggested before the game that Ishikawa will start there Wednesday. That would make for a full-circle situation for Ishikawa, who began the year with the Pirates -- actually started for them opening day at first base, his natural position -- and now returns as potentially the starting left fielder for Pittsburgh's wild-card opponent.
"If you would've told me that, I would've called you crazy," Ishikawa said.
"I know when I made the club om Pittsburgh, I was obviously looking forward to coming back here and playing these guys," said Ishikawa, who debuted with the Giants and was a member of the 2010 World Series team. "And as soon as they let me go and I signed the minor-league deal here (this year), all I could think about was getting back (to the majors) and playing against those guys.
"So hopefully I can make them think twice about the decision they made. I know they were trying to make the best interests for their club, and what they thought helped their team the most. I understand the business side of it. But it sure will feel good if we'll be celebrating Wednesday night over there."
If so, the Giants will ensure themselves and their fans at least one more game this year at AT&T Park. Pence, in his postgame speech thanking the crowd for its support Sunday, led the fans in a "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chant, which set up his asking whether they want to see another game at home. The answer, of course: "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
Pence, by the way, finished the season second in the National League in runs (106) and third in hits (180). Posey ends fourth in average (.311) and tied for ninth in RBIs (89).
The Giants announced a crowd of 41,077 for Sunday's finale, bringing their reguar-season attendance total to 3,368,697.
The Giants will fly to Pittsburgh on Monday and hold a workout Tuesday. Then it's one game for a chance to extend their season. First pitch Wednesday at 5:07 p.m. PT.