Giants Can’t Wait to Take On Marlins
Never mind a season-ending loss.
The San Francisco Giants are off to the playoffs for the first time in eight years after finishing the regular season with a 5-3, 11-inning loss to the San Diego Padres on Sunday.
Derrek Lee hit his first major league homer, a three-run shot off Cory Bailey (0-1) in the 11th. The game was treated as a tuneup by the Giants, who shuttled in pitchers and position players.
“Today was a day to prepare for the postseason for us,” said Giant second baseman Jeff Kent, who along with most regulars had left the game by the fifth inning. “Guys are already getting their brains revamped and some body parts fixed, just getting ready for Florida.
“I think we’re at our peak of confidence, and belief and faith in ourselves. I think we’ve played well down the stretch and we have total confidence in our ability to handle the Marlins. I don’t doubt that at all.”
The Giants clinched their first National League West title since 1989 with a 6-1 victory over the Padres on Saturday, capping a dramatic two-week push that began with successive victories over the Dodgers. The victories allowed San Francisco to gain a share of first place and the Giants didn’t let it go.
San Francisco, only the fourth team this century to go from last place to first in back-to-back years, opens the playoffs Tuesday at Florida, the wild-card entry. Kirk Rueter (13-6) skipped his scheduled start Sunday and will pitch the playoff opener against Kevin Brown (16-8). The Giants have had trouble against Brown, who is 4-0 with a 0.61 earned-run average against San Francisco, including his June 10 no-hitter.
“He’s the best pitcher they have and we’re up for a fight,” Kent said. “But we have Kirk Rueter, who’s a tough pitcher, too, and they’re going to be up for a fight.
“We’re going to give it everything we have. There’s no sense playing 162 games, win this thing at the wire and go into the playoffs and fold. We’re going to leave our blood, sweat and tears on the field.”
San Diego’s Tony Gwynn, batting a major league-high .372, sat out the game while the Padres played their younger players, but won his eighth NL batting title, tying Hall of Famer Honus Wagner’s league record.
“I feel like I’ve earned it,” Gwynn said. “I had to battle this year. [Colorado’s] Larry Walker gave me all he could give me. It’s nice to to know you’re up there.”
Gwynn has hit .370 or better three times and at least .300 for the 15th consecutive season. He finished six points ahead of Walker, who also sat out Sunday’s finale against the Dodgers.
Joey Hamilton (12-7) worked two innings of relief.
Brian Johnson, who had two game-winning homers during the Giants’ drive in the last two weeks to the division crown, had an RBI single in the seventh to put San Francisco ahead, 2-0. Rich Aurilia’s run-scoring groundout in the fifth broke a scoreless tie.
San Diego tied it in the eighth on pinch-hitter Wally Joyner’s run-scoring double and a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Ken Caminiti, leaving starter Andy Ashby with a no-decision. Ashby gave up two runs in seven innings while striking out 10 and walking none.
Home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg suffered a fractured left wrist when he was struck by a pitch from Danny Darwin in the fourth inning. The game was delayed nine minutes while Kellogg was treated before being taken to a hospital. The three remaining umpires handled the rest of the game, with Randy Marsh moving behind the plate.