The Giants played the final game of their 2015 season Sunday to an unusual soundtrack. On an emotional afternoon at AT&T Park that began with a farewell ceremony for retiring reliever Jeremy Affeldt and ended with pitcher Ryan Vogelsong delivering a heartfelt thank-you to fans, Giants pitchers and players did not warm up or walk to the plate accompanied by their normal entrance music.
Instead, they did so to songs chosen by shortstop Brandon Crawford. As a result, catcher Jackson Williams heard Outkast’s “(Sorry) Ms. Jackson” as he came up to hit. Typically understated Buster Posey came up to unbefitting titles “Watch Me” and “The Man.” And it seemed as though Crawford had saved the best for last when reliever George Kontos entered in the ninth inning to Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.”
The last note turned out to be a sour one. The Giants led the Rockies by three runs with one out in the ninth when Kontos entered, only to see Colorado erupt for seven runs in the inning to hand them a 7-3 loss. Eight consecutive Rockies hitters reached base in the inning as the Giants used the final four of their 11 pitchers on the day, a franchise record for a nine-inning game.
“It was a Debbie Downer, the last inning,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “There’s no getting around it.”
The Giants finish the season 84-78, eight games back of the division-champion Dodgers in a season heavily defined by the amount of time their players spent off the field due to injuries. Right-hander Matt Cain made just 11 starts and struggled coming back from last season’s elbow surgery, but he received the starting nod Sunday and threw five scoreless innings, setting an encouraging precedent for 2016.
Cain had a 6.31 ERA entering the game and had not started for the Giants since Aug. 25, but limited the Rockies to two hits in five innings while throwing 65 pitches. Bochy said he thought Cain “should take away (from his outing) that he’s back.”
“I thought he had good stuff, offspeed pitches were good, kept them down, hit his spots,” Bochy said. “I thought this outing would really be important for him as he goes into the offseason to get that confidence back, that swagger that he has.”
Despite a disappointing season that included stints on the disabled list for a flexor tendon strain and elbow nerve irritation, Cain said his intention next year is still to be a front-end starter to complement Madison Bumgarner. The right-hander said he’s looking forward to being able to “wipe the slate clean” this offseason, and that while he was “not going to hang everything on today, today definitely felt good.”
The good feelings extended to the sixth inning, when Affeldt, who before the game gave a moving retirement speech to a crowd of 41,399, retired two hitters and left to a standing ovation. Bochy also brought in reliever Sergio Romo for his career-high 70th appearance of the season and Javier Lopez for his 77th appearance, matching a career-high.
Matt Duffy concluded a breakout rookie season with an RBI single in the Giants’ two-run first inning, and Buster Posey followed by driving in his team-high 95th run with a single. Posey, who finished the year batting .318 with 19 home runs, drove in Kelby Tomlinson, who batted .303 in his first 54 major-league games after being called up Aug. 3.
With a 3-0 lead in the ninth, Bochy said, he’d decided to finish the game with Lopez and Kontos, who entered the game with a 1.96 ERA and had stranded his first 26 inherited runners to start the season. But after Lopez departed with a runner on first and one out in the ninth, Kontos faced three batters without recording an out, including Corey Dickerson, who tied the game with a three-run homer.
“George has been the unsung hero with the year he’s had, he’s bailed us out so many times,” Bochy said. “It didn’t work out, we just had a hard time getting that last out.”
Fans who remained after the game heard Vogelsong, who has said he doesn’t expect to be with the Giants next season, thank them for their support during a trying season. “I don’t know where I’ll be next year or what the front of my jersey is going to say,” Vogelsong said. “But I do know one thing: I will always, always be a Giant.”
The Giants continued their perplexing pattern since 2010 of going to the World Series in even years and failing to reach the playoffs in odd years. Posey said there were positives to take out of 2015, such as the emergence of young players like Duffy and Tomlinson, and the performance of Bumgarner, who went 18-9 with a 2.93 ERA. But Posey said it’s “hard to say you’re not disappointed when you don’t make the playoffs.”
“There’s some good stuff,” Posey said. “But it’s hard for me to say you’re satisfied with the outcome if you’re not getting to play a little bit more.”