Giants aiming for symbolic victories in final week
Despite disappointing season, club intent on making most of remaining games
SAN FRANCISCO -- For the Giants, finding meaning in the season's final week might seem as futile as seeking a four-leaf clover in AT&T Park's pristine outfield grass. But the Giants insist they'll try to make the most of their six remaining games, beginning with Tuesday's series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Steering away from last place in the National League West is San Francisco's primary objective. The Giants currently occupy fourth place, 1 1/2 games ahead of the cellar-dwelling Rockies. Sinking into fifth would give San Francisco the dubious distinction of becoming the second team to place last one year after winning the World Series. The 1998 Marlins, who jettisoned their accomplished high-salaried players to save money, are the sole members of this unfortunate club.
"Sure, we'd like to avoid that," manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's not something we want on our resume. It's about pride. We talk about it all the time. We're going to do all we can for that not to happen."
Bochy thus can be expected to keep playing many of his veterans, especially during the Dodgers series. With Los Angeles in contention for the NL's best record and home-field advantage through the playoffs, the Giants will be obliged to go with their best against their archrivals.
Yet the Giants' 2-1 Interleague victory Sunday over the Yankees might tempt Bochy to use some of his younger players more frequently. Rookies such as outfielder Juan Perez and shortstop Ehire Adrianza might not enter 2014 as challengers for starting jobs, but they performed well enough to deserve longer looks.
Right-hander Sergio Romo can relate.
"This is the time of the season I got an opportunity when I was a rookie," said Romo, who picked up a win and a hold in three appearances against the Dodgers during the 2008 season's last week. "So watching our younger guys come in here and try to make a difference, that's important. I think it's cool to watch them compete."
San Francisco is 11-9 in September after three consecutive losing months, and the Giants have repeated their belief that a fruitful finish will improve the club's chances for a promising start next season, though such a correlation is far from guaranteed.
"Guys have been relaxed," said right-hander Matt Cain, who's slated to start Tuesday against the Dodgers. "Hopefully, we can remember that going into next year and remember what we were doing to succeed."
"We want to finish with some momentum, so we have a lot to look forward to next year," said right fielder Hunter Pence, who's eligible for free agency after the season ends and isn't assured of returning.
A handful of San Francisco players can look forward to the final week for statistical or symbolic reasons, including:
• Pence, who needs one home run for a career-high 26, and seven RBIs to reach 100 while continuing his bid to start all 162 games;
• Romo, who's four saves shy of becoming the fourth Giant to amass 40 in a season;
• Cain (8-9), who needs a win to avoid his first losing season since he went 8-14 in 2008 (he conceivably could also start the season's final game);
• Madison Bumgarner, whose next strikeout will be his 200th of the season;
• Barry Zito, who might receive a farewell start before his seven-year, $126 million contract ends along with the season;
• Javier Lopez, who owns a 1.60 ERA and is poised to finish with a career-best mark in that category;
• Marco Scutaro (.297) and Buster Posey (.295), who remain two or three big games from batting .300.