SAN FRANCISCO — Denard Span signed a three-year deal with the Giants in part to play in games like the three against the Dodgers. Through the first two games over the weekend, Span was mostly a spectator.
The leadoff hitter and center fielder most of the season, Span didn’t start Friday and didn’t play at all Saturday. He did, however, make the most of Game 162.
Span had three hits and scored three runs in the clincher, driving in a pair with a triple to right in the second. His run in that inning gave Matt Moore a 5-0 lead, and in the eighth an insurance run made it 6-1. Span also tracked down Joc Pederson’s threatening fourth-inning fly ball at the wall and he helped Sergio Romo through the ninth with a spectacular diving catch.
“I woke up this morning locked in,” Span said on Sunday. “Obviously I’m fresh. I haven’t played in two days. I was just locked in.”
That freshness showed in the ninth. Statcast had Span reaching a top speed of 20.4 mph on the ninth-inning play, and he had a route efficiency of 98.2 percent on his way to the grab. As for the reason Span felt fresh, well, it’s clear that the playing time alteration hasn’t always been easy to swallow.
“I haven’t been in a platoon situation in my career,” Span said. “It wasn’t easy, but I talked to (Bruce) Bochy about it and he told me he needs me to buy in and trust him.”
A few minutes earlier, Bochy had used the same phrase to describe Span’s performance: “He bought in to what we’re doing,” he said.
Span is hitless in six at-bats against Noah Syndergaard, but it’s a good bet that he’ll be in the batter’s box for the right-hander’s first pitch Wednesday night. If the Giants advance, Bochy will be in for an interesting decision. Gorkys Hernandez became a fixture against left-handers down the stretch and he played well, and Jon Lester will start Game 1 for the Cubs.
That’s a topic for Thursday if the Giants advance. For now, before the wild card game, let’s put a bow on the regular season finale …
--- Span was one of several veteran players who went out of his way Sunday afternoon to compliment Ty Blach, Saturday’s star. Asked about the strong pitching over the final week, he went right to the rookie. “Ty Blach, nobody knew who the heck he was (before) yesterday,” he said, smiling.
Blach is a household name for Giants fans now. He might have pitched his way onto a playoff roster, too. Remember how valuable Yusmeiro Petit was in the NLDS in 2014? You always need a long reliever.
--- Several Giants reached out to Ryan Vogelsong on Saturday to provide some good-natured encouragement for the final day. Vogelsong’s help ultimately wasn’t needed, but he did his part anyway, ending his season in style by allowing five hits and one run over five innings. The Cardinals rallied after Vogelsong departed, winning 10-4. They fell a game short of hosting a Monday night tiebreaker. Jeff Samardzija would have pitched for the Giants.
--- The always-quotable Sergio Romo, as beer dripped down his beard: “Now we get a chance to dance. We like our chances once we get in.”
--- Jake Peavy got the microphone after the game and represented his teammates. He told fans, “I know this season hasn't been what you thought it would be. That being said, we're in." Peavy also promised one more game at AT&T Park, noting that he was one of several free agents standing on the field. “I’m not done playing in this ballpark,” he said.
--- Here’s my game story from the final game and a notebook leading with Conor Gillaspie’s spectacular catch. And here’s Ray Ratto, getting to the bottom of the best part of the clubhouse party: Some marketing firm probably got paid an absurd amount of money to come up with postseason t-shirt slogans and Bochy celebrated in a 2013 Cactus League shirt.
--- Regular readers of my post-game “instant replay” stories know that I have taken a few shots at the sellout streak. The math on sellouts is fuzzy, but it just seems pointless to keep that number going (it’s nearing 500) when there were so many nights down the stretch where the ballpark was like 20 percent empty (and don’t get me started on the odd-year Septembers).
But, credit where credit is due: The Giants handle most things the right way, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park with the Vin Scully tributes. Scully received about a half-dozen standing ovations and was honored with a plaque in the radio booth, presented by Willie Mays. He tapes a video introduction for every game at Dodger Stadium and the Giants showed a special version before Sunday’s game. Between innings, they showed highlights from Scully’s career and tributes from other broadcasting greats.
Scully signed off for the final time right after 3 p.m. "I have said enough for a lifetime,” he said. “And for the last time, I wish you all a very pleasant good afternoon.”