SAN FRANCISCO -- For parts of three seasons, manager Bruce Bochy took a "set it and forget it" approach to the right field slot in his lineup. Hunter Pence played every day, through bruises and fatigue and likely a few injuries the public never found out about. A couple of fluke injuries have caused Pence to spend most of his season in the trainer's room, but Bochy still has an iron man.
Matt Duffy will make his 59th consecutive start at third base on Saturday and play in his 98th consecutive game. That's the fourth-longest streak in the Majors, behind Manny Machado (141), Kole Calhoun (132) and Charlie Blackmon (119). Not bad for a player who started the spring without a guaranteed roster spot and started the season as a utility man.
"The kid hasn't had a break," Bochy said. "What's amazing is the way he's playing. He hasn't slowed down a bit. That's what's incredible. He reminds me of Pence when he had that streak. These guys are in great shape."
[PAVLOVIC: Aoki, Blanco, Pence could be done for year]
The durability has been especially important given all the injuries Bochy has had to work through. Duffy, Brandon Belt and Buster Posey are the only regulars who have not gone down to injury. Even three of the backups (Hector Sanchez, Andrew Susac and Gregor Blanco) are likely done for the year. Duffy isn't just out there going through the motions, either. He was a stealth All-Star candidate in the first half and remains in the running for the NL Rookie of the Year award. As I noted in my recap of August (see: No. 5), Duffy has hit above .300 in every month he's been a starter.
"The consistency is what's really been impressive," Bochy said. "It's every day that he brings something. It's a credit to the type of shape he's in, but also the player he is. He's just a really solid all-around player. He's a ballplayer. He comes and brings it every day. He's got that ability to get himself up every day and that's not easy."
You don't approach 100 straight games without playing through something, and Duffy has dealt with an ankle sprain that almost knocked him out of a game last month. He stayed in -- in part because the backup infield options were Juan Perez and Buster Posey -- and hasn't missed a beat. The power numbers have taken a dip, but Duffy is hitting .279 in September and had a big two-run single on Friday. Since becoming a starter in May, he has not gone more than two straight games without a hit.
Duffy has a long way to go before reaching Pence's streak of 383 straight games played that ended when he got hit by a pitch this spring. That was the third-longest streak in franchise history. Bochy figures Pence will get back to his everyday ways next year, giving the Giants two guys who will push to play 162 games. Asked about the streak Saturday, Duffy smiled and pointed out that the run to Cal Ripken's record starts with a streak like this one. He said the durability is important to him, and there's no reason to pull back now. The ankle remains taped, but Duffy said it's just about 100 percent. Bochy intends on pushing this run well past 100 straight games.
"He's been a savior," he said. "I just pencil his name in every day."
--- Pence is said to be feeling better the last couple of days. There seemed to be more optimism today that he'll return sometime this season. Brandon Crawford's leg isn't nearly as purple as it was two days ago and Bochy said the oblique strain is just about gone. When the calf gets a little better, Crawford will be back out there.
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