San Diego spent over half of Jeff Samardzija ‘s start hitting the snot out of just about everything he threw Sunday afternoon at Oracle Park. Ultimately, he limited the Padres (64-72) to three runs, but two runners bequeathed to Fernando Abad in the sixth scored on a back-breaking three-run bomb off the bat of Ty France, and there was no coming back.
But the Giants (66-70) 8-4 loss to the Padres was in many ways an afterthought in light of the emotional final at-bat in for Pablo Sandoval on the cusp of Tommy John surgery and free agency, and the beginning of a month-long celebration of manager Bruce Bochy‘s career in a nod to his upcoming retirement.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at Oracle Park.
Six of the 10 batted balls with exit velocities over 100-mph from both teams Sunday came out of Samardzija’s (L, 9-10, 3.61 ERA) hand, topping out at 110.1-mph off the bat of Eric Hosmer, who finished a homer shy of the cycle.
Within four batters, the Giants were in a two-run hole after the Shark gave up a lead-off homer to Greg Garcia and a pair of doubles to Nick Martini and Hosmer. He had only allowed more than three hits in an outing once in his previous six starts, but against the Padres he allowed four in the first inning alone. Of his outing Samardzija said:
“I was just fighting myself out there pretty much most of the day and just didn’t find myself in very good counts… We just weren’t locating very well at all today, so it just was a grind.”
Samardzija threw first-pitch balls to eight of 14 batters he faced through the first three innings, during which time he allowed a total of seven hits.
The big righty said he plans to spend the four-game series in St. Louis looking at film and working on some things in his bullpen session to try to figure out where he’s going wrong:
“I’ll probably go [look at] a couple games back and take a look at what we were doing the last time I felt really good out there. These last few times out we’ve been a little crossed up and timing’s been off so we need to get back to work. Sometimes these things happen and you need to reassess and move on.”
San Francisco answered back against Eric Lauer (W, 8-8, 4.55 ERA) in the home-half of the first when Donovan Solano led off with a single to right and a batter later Kevin Pillar swatted his 20th dinger of the year into the ambulance well in left field to tie it up at two apiece.
With that, Pillar became the first Giant to hit 20 homers since Brandon Crawford hit 21 in 2015. Pillar had never hit more than 16 in a season:
“It’s something I always felt like I was capable of doing, it’s a really big thing for me. I’m not a guy that’s gonna hit a ton of homers, but I feel like I’ve made consistent contact and hit the ball hard, and it’s nice to put up the type of numbers I’ve been able to put up this year.”
The Padres retook the lead the very next inning on the first of France’s two home runs, a 424-foot rocket to right that was 106.6-mph off his bat.
Midway through the second inning, the Giants unveiled a sign on the left-field wall next to the Chevron cars that read “Thank You Boch!” with an image of Bochy tipping his cap. They announced that the team plans to honor Bochy throughout the month of September as they prepare to send him off on his retirement.
Fans gave Bochy a standing ovation when the sign was unveiled and he tipped his cap to the 38,701 spectators on their feet at Oracle Park:
“It was an emotional time. I can try to stay locked in with the season and finish strong, but you can’t help [but feel emotional] when they do something like that. You’re humbled, you’re so appreciative and, of course, the fans —I can’t thank them enough [for] what they did here today. It’s another reminder that this is my last month, it probably hits me a little bit more when you have something like that happen.”
Heading back to the business of baseball, Samardzija settled down for the next three frames, limiting San Diego to just two hits and no runs. But the Friars never relinquished the lead again, and in the sixth, the Shark fell apart:
“Tip your hat to ’em, they came out and made adjustments the last time I faced them and put the barrel on the ball. They put a few more lefties in there today and put some good swings on it.”
Hosmer led off with a triple off the wall in left-center. Pillar crashed into the padding, making a valiant effort to execute a play, but he couldn’t quite pull it off.
He was slow to get up, but left fielder Joey Rickard, who was backing up the play, gave him a hand getting back on his feet after throwing the ball back to the infield, and they carried on as normal.
Friday he was hit in the jaw by a 97-mph fastball and he is currently being monitored by the Giants training staff under the concussion protocol, so it’s certainly something that could be a concern, but he said there is no cause for worry:
“[I was] just staying out of the way, waiting for my teammate to pick me up, that was it.”
A batter later, Wil Myers hit a slow dribbler up the third base line that Longoria gambled on going foul. It did not. Myers ended up on second and Hosmer scored easily.
Austin Allen then drew a walk and at 109 pitches Giants Bochy hooked the Shark for Abad. the skipper said although things weren’t great for Samardzija initially, he did settle down for much of the latter portion of his outing:
“You could tell. His stuff wasn’t quite there or his command —you look at the ball to strike ratio and that was pretty evident. But you saw him get really good there, too. He just had trouble getting in sync for the first couple innings, but he kept us in the game there at three.”
With Shark gone, Abad was tasked with pitching through traffic in the sixth, but the Padres broke it wide open against him when France took him deep for the three-run jack to put San Diego ahead 7-2, and ostensibly snuff out any notions of a comeback.
The Giants made an attempt in the bottom of the sixth when Slater beat out an infield grounder to third for a single and Longoria hit a one-out, 409-foot homer (18) to put San Francisco within grand slam distance, down 7-4.
But it would be the last gasp they mustered. And the Padres added an insurance run off Shaun Anderson in the ninth on a pair of singles to seal the deal.
Sandoval took what could be his final at-bat in a Giants uniform Sunday when he pinch-hit for Sam Coonrod in the seventh with Crawford on first.
The beloved Giant is scheduled for Tommy John surgery Wednesday but he hoped to have one last at-bat for the fans and for Bochy, whom he said he views as a second father. Sandoval is a free agent in 2019, and it remains to be seen whether he will put on a Giants uniform again.
He said the at-bat was very emotional and having not seen a pitch in over two weeks he admitted he was a little ‘lost’ at the plate:
“At least I stepped on home plate and I hit the ball and didn’t strike out.”
As Giants fans gave him a standing ovation from the moment he stepped into the on-deck circle until he walked back into the dugout he struggled to fight back tears, something he did again when addressing the media afterward:
“The most important thing in this at-bat was the love that I got from [the fans]. I know I was lost, I didn’t see a pitch for two weeks, but I had to do it before I get surgery because this fan support gave me a lot of things, a lot of love, a lot of passion and I want to give back something to them before I get surgery.”
He grounded out to third base and moved Crawford to second, but Solano grounded out to end the inning.
Bochy said he shook Sandoval’s hand when he came back to the dugout:
“I said, ‘It’s been a joy.’ It was good to get him one more at-bat. Obviously, we were hoping to get a base hit there, but I think he saw how much he’s loved here with the crowd. What a great ovation they gave them.”
Andrés Muñoz struck out the side in the eighth and David Bednar induced three fly outs for a 1-2-3 ninth.
Despite the difficult loss, the Giants had some important moments that were bigger than baseball Sunday.
The Giants will leave for a two-city road trip that opens with a four-game series with the Cardinals Monday. Tyler Beede (3-8, 5.56 ERA) will toe the rubber against Adam Wainwright (9-9, 4.52 ERA) for an 11:15 a.m. PST first pitch.
After the conclusion of the series with St. Louis the Giants will head to Los Angeles to play a three-game set against the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine over the weekend.
Julie Parker is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @InsideThePark3r on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.