SAN FRANCISCO — Six months ago, on Opening Day, the Giants were still riding high from their 107-win season. Brandon Belt was still “The Captain,” riding in on a boat along the warning track. Logan Webb looked the part of staff ace. Darin Ruf was on the move.
In their home finale Sunday afternoon, it was Wilmer Flores on the move, hustling home from second base to score the winning run on a walk-off single from David Villar in the bottom of the 10th. The Giants beat the D-backs, 4-3, to win their final home series and finish the season 44-37 on the shores of McCovey Cove.
The beginning and the ending were the same. If only the middle could have gone differently.
Without the possibility of the playoffs, many of the 34,824 on hand Sunday stuck around long after the final out, as manager Gabe Kapler addressed the fans and players tossed memorabilia into the stands.
The crowd stood and danced and cheered almost as voraciously as Austin Slater rounded the bases in the bottom of the seventh, after slugging a go-ahead pinch-hit home run. But when they settled back into their seats, they were reminded that this was it. There was nothing more to root for. Postseason baseball will be played in locales as close as Los Angeles and as far as Toronto but not at the corner of Third and King this season.
The Giants head to San Diego for their final three games — their first time since 2012 finishing away from home, a result of the lockout-delayed start to the season — where the Padres will be preparing for the playoffs, while the Giants will be checking in for their flights home.
Webb was supposed to start the home finale, but he was shut down once the Giants were mathematically eliminated.
Ruf, one of the biggest among many platoon success stories from last year, was sent on the move one last time in a trade to the New York Mets (a deal that netted J.D. Davis and three pitchers, one surefire win this year). Others of a similar mold — LaMonte Wade Jr., Mike Yastrzemski — endured the same struggle to repeat last year’s success.
Belt was on hand, but his presence has been minimal since undergoing season-ending knee surgery. There was no pageantry, no grand entrance, no makeshift ‘C’ taped to anyone’s chest — not after Belt posted the lowest OPS of his career (.676) in an injury-riddled season.
Evan Longoria, possibly playing his final home game at Oracle Park (the Giants hold a $13 million club option), drove in the Giants’ first run with a sacrifice fly to left, after Wilmer Flores doubled and the Giants loaded the bases behind him in the first.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford, who also battled health troubles for much of the year, continued to flash his once-famous leather that has reappeared in the past month. With the D-backs mounting scoring threats in the third, fourth and sixth innings, Crawford fielded ground balls to start three inning-ending double plays.
The first, on a ground ball from Christian Walker with runners at first and second in the third, was most impressive. Crawford ranged well to right, pivoted and fired to second baseman Thairo Estrada, who completed all three of the double plays.
Slater’s home run was his first since June and the Giants’ fifth of the pinch-hit variety this season. Although that is tied for the second-most in the majors, San Francisco will end this season far off last year’s pace, a record-setting 17.
No matter what happens this week in San Diego, the Giants will make history.
With a sweep or a series win, they’ll clinch a .500 record and become the first team since 1925 to avoid a losing record after being at least eight games under water with 16 or fewer games left. A series loss or a sweep in the other direction would clinch the fourth losing season in major-league history by a team that won 100 games the previous year.©#YR@ MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at mercurynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.