By Evan Webeck
Absent a pennant race, a division sprint or wild card wackiness, the Giants wrapped their slog to the finish line of a disappointing season on a bright note Wednesday, in an 8-1 win over the San Diego Padres.
The win improved the Giants to 81-81, a .500 record, something they had not accomplished in 139 previous seasons.
Since falling eight games under water on Sept. 18, the Giants won 12 of their final 16 games, the first team since 1925 to avoid a losing record after falling into a hole that deep that late into a season. However, their record was the worst by any team coming off a 100-win season since the Phillies in 2012 and only the fifth time in major-league history a team has won 100 games and failed to finish with a winning record the next full season.
The Giants will next play baseball 143 days from Thursday, when they open their 2023 Cactus League schedule, and the group of players will surely look different than the 28 who finished the season in San Diego.
Here are some takeaways from Game 162.
Villar makes his case: One player who has carved out a spot for himself next spring is David Villar, who has impressed more than anyone provided a showcase over the final month of the season.
Villar slugged his eighth and ninth home runs of the season — his second multi-homer game since being recalled at the start of September — to drive in three of the Giants’ eight runs.
Villar went first-pitch swinging in the fourth and put Craig Stammen’s cutter into the left-field seats, driving home Brandon Crawford, who singled to lead off the inning, for the first two runs of a four-run fourth inning rally. He got an assist in the eighth from left fielder Jurickson Profar, who let a deep fly ball down the left field line glance off his glove and over the wall for Villar’s second homer, increasing the Giants’ lead to 7-1.
Over the Giants’ final 32 games of the season, Villar led the team in home runs (eight), matched Evan Longoria in RBIs (17) and trailed only Joc Pederson in slugging percentage (.506). Combined with the 27 he hit at Triple-A Sacramento, Villar finished the season with 36 home runs, the most by anyone in the Giants organization at any level since Barry Bonds (45) in 2004.
Kapler began September by saying Villar was a the player the Giants wanted to give an extended look over the final month of the season, and Villar capitalized on his chance. While he won’t enter next spring as the Giants’ everyday third baseman, or even guaranteed a roster spot, he has proven that his power present in the minor leagues translates to the bigs.
LaMonte Wade Jr. drove in the third run of the fourth-inning rally with a hit that was big for the Giants but also for himself. Wade, who entered the final game of the season batting .198, pushed his average over .200 with his RBI knock, his second hit of the game, which scored Ford Proctor.
In between Villar’s blasts, Austin Slater put one in the seats, too.
Slater was initially ruled out in the top of the seventh for fouling a bunt attempt off his leg. But the umpires huddled, determined Slater was still in the batter’s box and thus was a foul ball.
Slater stepped back in and homered on the next pitch, increasing the Giants’ lead to 6-1.
Bullpen game: The next time you see John Brebbia, the red-bearded right-hander will look a lot different, too. As in, clean shaven. The bushy-faced (for now) reliever made his 76th appearance as the opener of Wednesday’s bullpen game, a result of skipping Carlos Rodón’s final start and moving Alex Cobb up a day.
Brebbia shaves each spring, then lets the beard grow throughout the season.
It was a long one for Brebbia, who led the National League with his 76 appearances.
Pitching the first inning Wednesday for the 11th time this season, Brebbia also opened more games than any other reliever (and tied for the fifth-most all-time, all since opener came into popularity in 2018). He hadn’t allowed a run in his previous 10 times opening but proved there’s a first time for everything, allowing a pair of two-out doubles to Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth that gave the Padres a brief 1-0 lead and their only run.
Looking ahead to next year, Brebbia and Camilo Doval are the only surefire fixtures of a bullpen that has already begun to take shape. Tyler Rogers (the reigning leader in appearances), who didn’t allow a run in 11 outings since the end of August, is also likely to be back. But the remaining spots are being fought over this final month of the season.
Among those making their cases, Yunior Marte, Alex Young, Cole Waites, Andrew Vasquez and Luis Ortiz all turned in clean innings behind Brebbia. Together, they limited San Diego to two hits and no runs after the first inning.
- Despite Wednesday’s win, the Giants finished the season 6-13 against the Padres, one of three NL West foes they had a losing record against this season. Overall, the Giants went 33-43 (.434) against the NL West, 10 games worse than last season, when they posted the best divisional winning percentage in the majors (53-23).
- With Andrew Vasquez making his debut, striking out four over two scoreless innings, he became the 67th player used by the Giants this season, increasing what was already a franchise-record total.
- Thairo Estrada, who was scratched from the lineup (illness), finished the season as the Giants’ most valuable position player, according to FanGraphs’ calculation of wins above replacement (2.7). Estrada hit 14 home runs and stole 21 bases, the first Giants infielder to reach those marks since Joe Morgan in 1982.
Source: Paradise Post