SAN DIEGO -- Nights such as Tuesday support Hunter Pence's belief that he can continue to play in the Major Leagues next season.Many of the 87 previous games that Pence has played this year speak to the contrary, however.Pence drove in the Giants' first three runs in their 5-4 victory
SAN DIEGO -- Nights such as Tuesday support Hunter Pence's belief that he can continue to play in the Major Leagues next season.
Many of the 87 previous games that Pence has played this year speak to the contrary, however.
Pence drove in the Giants' first three runs in their 5-4 victory over the Padres at Petco Park. He belted a two-run homer in the second inning that traveled a projected 437 feet, according to Statcast™, and an RBI double in the fourth. But Pence couldn't capitalize on a tantalizing opportunity in the eighth, when he batted with the bases loaded, nobody out and the Giants trailing, 4-3. Pence tapped a comebacker to Padres reliever Craig Stammen, who flipped the ball home for a forceout.
The Giants forged ahead anyway as Chris Shaw blooped a two-run single to left field. That was fitting, since it's widely believed that younger performers such as Shaw will occupy San Francisco's outfield next year. More specifically, Shaw, Steven Duggar and Austin Slater could play left field, center and right, respectively.
Pence, 35, faces a decision now that his five-year, $90 million contract is ending, thus making him eligible for free agency. He has spent most of his 12-year Major League career as an everyday player -- quite literally in 2013-14, when he played all 162 games in both seasons. But he'd probably accept a reserve role, particularly if he were to return to the Giants, with whom he's extremely comfortable.
Asked if he envisions himself playing in the Majors next year, Pence said, "We'll see."
However, undertones of finality crept into his remarks about his tenure with the Giants, who obtained him from in a 2012 Trade Deadline deal.
"It's been an incredible trip to be a part of the Giants organization for this long and I've loved every bit," Pence said. "And I will continue to do so until it's officially over."
This season could be regarded as a transition for Pence, who has started only 41 games. It will function either as a bridge toward a lower-profile spot on a roster or as a road toward retirement. Even with his productive night, Pence is batting .215 with three home runs and 22 RBIs. Injuries have remained a fixture in Pence's career since 2015; this year was no different, as a sprained right thumb forced him to miss 40 games early in the season.
Whether he was active or injured, slumping or thriving, Pence has remained a source of inspiration for the Giants.
"The guy brings a lot to the table," said starter Derek Holland, who surrendered four runs and five hits in five innings. "I know the fans know it. For being there as long as he has, they've seen everything. … Whether he's in the game or not, he's going to give you everything. He's going to be behind each guy, he's going to help everybody and keep them motivated. That's what you call a perfect teammate. A great teammate."
The mood in the clubhouse would have been more subdued had Shaw not contributed his eighth-inning hit. When Shaw batted, he was still fuming over a two-run homer that San Diego's Franmil Reyes hit in the fifth inning. The Giants believed that a fan who reached for the ball prevented Shaw from catching it.
"That's definitely something that fired me up," Shaw said. "I was pretty [hacked] off out there. I thought that was a chance where I could have taken two runs off the board. Coming up in that situation, that's where you want to be. You want to be up in that spot and have a chance to give your team the lead."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Giants left fielder Shaw might not have grabbed Reyes' fifth-inning homer that carried into the first row of the outfield seats. But he would have liked to receive a better opportunity to make an attempt. A fan appeared to reach over the leaping Shaw's glove as they tried to snare Reyes' drive. Neither caught the ball -- though the fan ultimately got it -- and Reyes got his home run as a crew-chief's review determined that the call would stand.
"It's certainly a ball I thought I had a chance on," Shaw said.
By going 2-for-4 with a double, homer, three RBIs and a stolen base, Pence became the third Giant since 2000 to put together that combination in one game. Andrew McCutchen (April 7, 2018, against the Dodgers) and Ray Durham (July 2, 2008, against the Cubs) were the others.
The Giants would be ecstatic if Chris Stratton can come anywhere close to repeating his last performance when he confronts the Padres in Wednesday's 6:10 p.m. PT series finale. All Stratton did last Friday was pitch San Francisco's first complete game of the season, a two-hit shutout against the dangerous Rockies. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that the club's braintrust discussed the possibility of giving Stratton (10-9) an extra day of rest but decided that the 28-year-old could handle staying in his regular turn. Left-hander Robbie Erlin (3-7) will start for San Diego.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.