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Pence sits, ends consecutive starts streak

SAN FRANCISCO -- For Giants right fielder Hunter Pence, preparing for the postseason took an unusual turn Saturday: resting. Pence wasn't in Saturday's lineup, ending his Major League-high streak of 331 consecutive starts. A pinch-hitting appearance in the seventh inning kept alive his Majors-best streak of 382 games in a row.

Pence, 31, believed that replenishing his energy approaching Wednesday's Wild Card Game at Pittsburgh or St. Louis was more important than prolonging his starts streak.

"The only reason I go out there and play every day is to get to the playoffs and World Series," he said. "We know we're going on the road now, so I have to try to get in the best shape to be ready in the playoffs -- get fresh."

Pence insisted that he didn't necessarily need a break, though he went hitless in 21 at-bats before singling in Friday's second inning.

"I felt a lot better yesterday," said Pence, who entered Saturday ranked second in the National League in runs (106) and third in hits (180) while batting .279 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs. "I feel like any moment, everything will click. You go through these streaks in baseball."

Pence knew that he wouldn't start Saturday when hitting coach Hensley Meulens approached him after Friday night's game and pointedly suggested relaxing for a day.

"He was like, 'Why don't you take a day, get fresh?' I was like, 'I don't really want a day,'" Pence said. "He was like, 'Well, is the streak important to you?' I was like, 'No.' That's what they feel is best, so that's what I'm going to do. And I trust them."

Pence expressed no enthusiasm for pinch-hitting just to sustain his consecutive-games mark.

"That's meaningless stuff," he said. "The only thing that matters and the only thing that is real is who wins the World Series at the end of the year. There are some cool things to those accomplishments, but ultimately, there's nothing remembered more than a World Series champion."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Pence left the bench not to prolong his streak but because he was the best hitter for the situation.

"I knew he would take some good swings up there," Bochy said of Pence, who lined out to left field. Echoing Pence, Bochy added, "I think sometimes you get caught up in the streaks and you do run the possibility of running a guy into the ground. I'll be conscious of that next year."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.
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