SAN FRANCISCO – Hunter Pence started all 162 games. He played in 98.9 percent of the Giants’ innings. He received a perfect attendance certificate – along with a $90 million contract, announced earlier Sunday.
And in the season’s last light, he was the perfect person to make everyone a little more excited about pitchers and catchers reporting in February.
Pence batted in the ninth inning with the bases loaded, an extra player stationed on the infield and inviting emptiness in straightaway center. That’s exactly where he slashed his walk-off single as the Giants beat the San Diego Padres 7-6 and won a share of third place in the NL West.
“When we were in a bad hole, one of our goals was to dig deeper and find a way to get momentum going into the offseason, and I think we did that,” said Pence, after his first walk-off hit as a Giant delivered the club’s 12th win in their last at-bat.
Pence entered the game with 96 RBI and had a shot at 100 when he batted with the bases loaded in the seventh. He hit a two-run single to make it a one-run game.
After Francisco Peguero’s home run tied it, the Giants loaded the bases on Tony Abreu’s single, a wild pitch, a passed ball and a pair of walks. Then Pence cashed in his 99th RBI.
Is it too late to ask for a raise?
“My spirits were lifted,” Pence said of the contract. “They showed me their faith to make this deal happen. I can’t tell you how many fans were screaming at me, saying nice things to me. It’s energizing.”
Pence became the first Giant to start every regular-season game since Alvin Dark in 1954. He has the longest streak in the NL with 171 consecutive starts. And he finished with 32 RBI in September, breaking Jeff Kent’s record (31 in 1998) for the most RBI in a September in the Giants’ San Francisco-era history.
He missed just 16 innings in right field all season. He was a difference maker at the very end.
And the man who preached for one more day will be around for five more years.
“This game,” said Pence, “was a great way to go into the offseason.”