SAN FRANCISCO – Hunter Pence got to give a speech and ride off on a scooter. For other Giants, the end might have come without anyone knowing it, but two key veterans hope that’s not the case.
Derek Holland reiterated before the game that he wants to return to San Francisco next season. Afterward, Nick Hundley said the same.
“This is an amazing place, a one-of-a-kind organization,” Hundley said. “Obviously we didn’t win a whole lot of games this month, but we were right in the thick of it up until the end of August. If we’re healthy, this team is capable of winning a World Series. If I’m able to add to that, I would definitely take the opportunity.”
The Giants do need to shake things up, but these are two decisions that could be easy. Hundley had a one-year, $2.5 million deal and something similar should be in the works. The staff is excited about Aramis Garcia and believes he could handle backup duty, but with Buster Posey rehabbing from major surgery, the preference is to have a veteran in-house, too. Holland made $2 million and gave the Giants a 3.57 ERA in 171 1/3 innings. He’s due a raise, and could be in line for a multi-year deal, but a reunion makes sense.
— The Giants finished 73-89 a year after losing 98 games. They’ll pick 10th in the draft. That’s a slot where they previously picked up Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum. This wasn’t how they wanted to end it, though. This was embarrassing. They gave up 14 runs in the first five innings.
“No question, that’s the last way we wanted this thing to go out,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
— Hunter Strickland replaced Andrew Suarez in the third and continued the fireworks, giving up three earned in 1/3 of an inning. Strickland started this season as the closer and did a pretty decent job before punching a door and putting himself on the DL for two months. He finished it with diminished velocity and a 3.97 ERA. Strickland made $1.55 million in arbitration this season and is due a small raise for next year. Will the Giants want to pay a couple million for a right-hander who was stuck in mop-up duty down the stretch?
Earlier in the day, Brian Sabean spoke with reporters and did not seem to indicate that the Giants plan to non-tender anyone notable, but the new VP/GM will get to make that decision. This will be an interesting one.
“He never really got in sync when he came back,” Bochy said. “I mean, we’re talking about our closer and he just wasn’t quite right. It just looks like he needs a winter off to get completely healed up.”
The debate over whether the Cubs–Brewers rivalry is real began on Labor Day in Milwaukee when Cole Hamels suggested Cubs fans’ invasion of Miller Park proved it was not.
We’ll find out just how hot the rivalry is Monday when the Cubs and Brewers play Game 163 at Wrigley Field (12:05 p.m., ESPN), a tiebreaker to determine the division champion and the wild-card team.
“I don’t think it really matters if we think it’s a rivalry or not,” Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich said during a recent interview. “It’s two really good teams, and I think that’s been proven on the field. All that other stuff is for you guys to debate, whether it’s a rivalry. It is or it isn’t.
“There have been a lot of tightly contested games and there is a lot of talent on both sides. It’s really fun to be a part of. The atmosphere is great and I really enjoy when we play each other. They’re a tough team, a great team, and we have a lot of fun anytime we get together. I guess time will tell.”
How the Cubs can stop Yelich will be the biggest question in Monday’s tiebreaker, the first at Wrigley since the 1998 wild-card tiebreaker, in which the Cubs beat the Giants to move on to the NL Division Series.
Yelich is the odds-on favorite for the NL Most Valuable Player award and also has a chance to win the Triple Crown.
“He’s had a bunch of moments like, ‘Did he just do that again?’” manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s what you’re kind of saying to yourself — ‘Can he do it again?’ And he keeps doing it. It’s fun to watch players like that, when great players get in those moments.”
So will manager Joe Maddon pitch around Yelich, as he did with Bryce Harper during a memorable series in 2016?
The Cubs have handled Yelich so far this year. He has hit .175 (10-for-57) in 15 games against the Cubs, with no home runs and five RBIs.
But he has been the hottest hitter in baseball in the second half, and the stakes obviously are much higher now.
Yelich said he didn’t really care whether or not they faced the Cubs in October. The teams could still meet in the division series no matter who wins Monday.
“It’s a great team, and you don’t really have a say in who you play on the playoffs,” he said. “You’ve just got to get in. Obviously if we end up matching up I think it’d be a great series. I really do. I think it would be really close, every single game. I don’t think it would be dissimilar to any of the games that we’ve played at the end of this year.”
The addition of Yelich and Lorenzo Cain certainly put the Brewers in position to compete with the Cubs, though they have been in the same area code for the last two years.
“I’m proud that we have the organization in a healthy place, and I also recognize the amount of work ahead of us for us to accomplish the type of things the Cubs have accomplished over the last half decade,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said.
Asked if a Cubs-Brewers playoff series would be good for baseball, Stearns instead said it would be a “great thing” for the two markets.
“We know that team very well,” he said. “They know us very well. We’ve had some of the better regular-season games I’ve ever been part of against that team. It does make you think what a playoff series could be like.”
Game 163 will bring the Brewers into the national spotlight, a place they are unaccustomed to because of their small-market status.
“We’re not really too concerned with the national spotlight, how well we get covered,” Yelich said. “We control what we can control, and that’s winning games. If you win enough games, the notoriety and everything else takes care of itself. …
J.D. Martinez was signed by the Red Sox in the offseason to help make an impact in the Boston lineup.
And he certainly delivered.
The slugger ended the regular season with 130 RBIs and 43 home runs, which etched him into Red Sox history. With his three-run round-tripper in the fourth inning of Sunday’s 10-2 win over the New York Yankees, he surpassed Dick Stuart for most home runs during a player’s first year with Boston. Stuart held the record since 1963.
Aside from breaking a 55-year-old record, Martinez’s RBIs and homers also leave him among some pretty elite company.
J.D. Martinez will finish his season batting .330 with 43 HR and 130 RBI. The only other Red Sox ever to hit at least .330 with 40+ HR and 130+ RBI are Ted Williams (1949) and Jimmie Foxx (1936, ’38). The last major leaguer to do that was Miguel Cabrera (2013).
Although it was a season for the record books for No. 28, the postseason now is a priority for Boston.
“It’s been fun. The guys have been great,” Martinez said after the game, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “It was exciting but now we’re focused on the playoffs.”
Here are some other notes from Sunday’s Red Sox-Yankees game:
— Mookie Betts ended the regular season with an American League-leading .346 average to go along with 47 doubles, 32 home runs, 80 RBIs, 129 runs scored and 30 stolen bases.
“I knew he was good, but to see it on a daily basis is eye-opening,” Sox manager Alex Cora said after the game. “From day one in Spring Training he put the work (in), he’s a good student of the game.”
Betts had a stellar campaign for the Red Sox, and if you ask Martinez, he’s a no-brainer to win the American League MVP award.
“If he’s not your MVP I don’t know who is,” Martinez said.
— The Red Sox finished the season with the best record in Major League Baseball at 108-54.
“We kept playing good baseball. They did a good job,” Cora said. “Got better throughout (the season), defensively, running the bases. It was a total team effort. It was a solid season.”
— After a less-than-stellar outing in Saturday’s loss when he surrendered three earned runs on four hits with two walks, Eduardo Rodriguez bounced back with a scoreless, hitless fifth inning that included two strikeouts.
“A lot better than yesterday,” Cora said. “I talked to him last night (and said) ‘Hey man, you got one inning tomorrow. We have to pitch with some conviction.’ And he did.”
— Boston will begin the ALDS on Friday at Fenway Park, with its opponent to be determined Tuesday night with the Oakland Athletics and Yankees fighting for a chance at the World Series title.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
EditorsNote: Updates with Cubs result, tiebreaker tomorrow
Jesus Aguilar homered and drove in three runs, and the Milwaukee Brewers clinched a first-place tie in the National League Central Division by pummeling the visiting Detroit Tigers 11-0 on Sunday.
With the Cubs beating the Cardinals later Sunday, the Brewers will visit Wrigley Field on Monday to decide the division title. Milwaukee (95-67) finished the 162-game schedule on a seven-game winning streak.
Ryan Braun supplied two hits, two runs and two RBIs, while Orlando Arcia also drove in two runs. Travis Shaw added a solo homer.
Most Valuable Player candidate Christian Yelich went 0-for-2 with two walks and scored twice. Yelich was removed from the game during the top of the eighth and received a standing ovation from the home crowd.
Starter Gio Gonzalez (10-11) pitched the minimum five innings to get the victory. He scattered three hits and struck out two.
Detroit starter Spencer Turnbull (0-2) gave up four runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings and struck out a season-high seven.
The Tigers (64-98), who were swept in the three-game series, had two runners on with two out in the first, but Mikie Mahtook grounded out.
Milwaukee scored two runs in the bottom of the inning. Yelich and Braun drew one-out walks. Following a fielder’s choice, Yelich scored on Aguilar’s infield hit. Mike Moustakas then ripped an RBI single to right.
Aguilar made it 3-0 when he drilled an opposite-field, leadoff homer in the fourth.
The Brewers loaded the bases in the sixth on singles by Braun and Shaw and a walk drawn by Moustakas. Manny Pina’s sacrifice fly knocked in Braun for a 4-0 advantage.
Milwaukee upped its lead to double digits with six runs in the seventh. Braun smoked a two-run double with the bases loaded and no one out. Following a groundout, another run scored on Aguilar’s fielder’s-choice grounder. When the throw home bounced past catcher James McCann, Braun also scored.
The 2018 Milwaukee Brewers season was full of some pretty amazing moments, though 162 games will obviously run together no matter how intently fans watch every pitch.
Let’s steal an idea from the 1990s sitcom “Friends,” which named its episodes based on how you might describe or remember them (“The One With the Evil Orthodontist” or “The One With Ross’s Sandwich” are examples). Here are the 162 games in the Brewers season and how you might remember each.