Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
AT&T PARK — It was overcast and gloomy at the yard on Sunday, as if as a reminder that the Giants regular season was coming to a close.
But the Giants certainly know how to keep the sold out and exceptionally loud crowd on their feet.
Barry Zito made a bullpen appearance and Sergio Romo (W, 5-8, 2.54 ERA) notched the win, but it was Mr. 162 Games, Hunter Pence, with the ninth inning walk-off single to give the Giants the 7-6 victory in the season finale.
The 2013 season was not kind to the Giants. But as skipper Bruce Bochy explained, it couldn’t have ended better:
“You couldn’t have written the story better today with everything that happened. Zito goes in there and faces a hitter, and the game on the line with Pence up there. It’s a great way to finish. It felt like a playoff game out there!”
Zito took the mound to a standing ovation and thunderous crowd applause in the top of the eighth after Heath Hembree retired two Padres batters.
Zito threw four pitches to strike out former teammate Mark Kotsay while the paid crowd of 41,495 stayed on its feet to cheer him on. As the rest of the team retired to the dugout after the out, Zito took a moment to stand on the field and tip his hat and show his appreciation.
Bochy said that the goal was, indeed, to get Zito out on the bump one last time:
“I told Barry, I have a lot of emotions going through me. He’s been here since I’ve been here, through the ups and downs. Have some great memories… I knew I was going to get him in there these last two games. So I gave him a heads up.”
The Giants got on the board first in the bottom of the first with Tony Abreu’s double out to left-center that a diving Jesus Guzman couldn’t grab. Brandon Belt then came up to the plate and launched the ball into left field for a double to bring Abreu home and put the G-men on the board 1-0.
San Diego tied it up in the top of the third when Nick Hundley squared up on a 2-2 pitch and launched a solo shot into the left field bleachers.
SF rallied in the bottom of the fourth. Belt took first base after being hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a Buster Posey single. Pablo Sandoval came up to the plate and hit a liner into shallow right that brought Belt home and tied the game 2-2.
Starter Guillermo Moscoso came out of the game after loading the bases in the fifth inning with only one out. Reliever Jake Dunning came in to face Jedd Gyorko, and on a 2-0 pitch the San Diego second baseman launched the ball into the outfield bleachers. The grand slam gave the Padres the 6-2 lead.
Gregor Blanco walked to start off the bottom of the fifth for the Giants, and advanced all the way to third base on his steal attempt during Tony Abreu’s at bat. Belt then lined the ball right along the right field foul line for his second RBI double of the afternoon. The hit brought Blanco home and narrowed the score gap 6-3.
San Francisco loaded up the bases in their half of the seventh with a hit batter and two walks. With two outs, Hunter Pence lined the ball right to shallow left for an RBI single that brought speedsters Gregor Blanco and pinch hitter Johnny Monell home for a score of 6-5.
Hembree, Zito and Sergio Romo held the Padres to six runs, and the Giants’ offense gave them support in the bottom of the ninth when Francisco Peguero — in after Gregor Blanco collided in the outfield with Angel Pagan and was carried off — hit a solo shot into deep center field to tie the game 6-6.
Bochy smiled as he talked about the homer:
“Go figure. He hasn’t been playing at all, he hits a home run to tie the game.”
San Diego closer Huston Street (L, 2-5, 2.70 ERA) loaded up the bases with no outs, and Hunter Pence launched the ball into deep center. The crowd got playoff-caliber loud and the Giants bench emptied as Pence’s teammates dog-piled on top of him as he rounded first base.
So, what’s a team to do now that their off-season has officially started? Bochy said:
“We have early work tomorrow. We have some work to do.”
The San Francisco Giants will kick off their 2014 season down in Arizona on Monday, March 31 against the Diamondbacks. They will host Arizona in their home opener Tuesday, April 8.
Today’s walk-off win marked the Giants 12th of the season, which matched the most walk-offs since 2011. It marked Hunter Pence’s ninth career walk-off hit and his first as a Giant… Hunter Pence became the first Giants player in the San Francisco-era to start every regular season game. … Heath Hembree finished his 2013 stint with the Giants with nine appearances, allowing just four hits in 7-2/3 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts. … The Giants announced a sellout crowd of 41,495 on Sunday, bringing the 2013 season total to 3,369,106. The Giants have sold out their last 246 regular season home games, dating back to October 1, 2010.