Giants finish 5-21 September for another losing season

JANIE McCAULEY (AP Baseball Writer)
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The way the last two seasons have gone for the San Francisco Giants, those three World Series titles in 2010, '12 and '14 seem so long ago for manager Bruce Bochy's club.

The Giants finished 73-89 following a season during which the biggest names - Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt - were all injured at some point. They traded Andrew McCutchen to the Yankees in late August amid all the disabled list stints.

San Francisco struggled to score runs and went a majors-worst 5-21 in September but improved on its last-place 2017 finish of 64-98 by nine wins during a second straight season in which pitchers Bumgarner and Cueto were sidelined for long stretches, and reliable right-hander Jeff Samardzija got hurt, too.

Cueto had Tommy John surgery in August, Posey underwent season-ending hip surgery later that month then first baseman Belt underwent season-ending right knee surgery in September.

''We've been one of those lineups that needed all hands on deck,'' said Brian Sabean, the executive vice president of baseball operations. He didn't want to speak about how the roster might shape up this winter until new hires are made in the front office.

Change is coming. A new general manager is set to be hired to replace Bobby Evans, who will be reassigned after he was dismissed last week.

President and CEO Larry Baer said preliminary conversations have begun.

''We don't know who that person is now. But he's the guy who'll be making decisions,'' Bochy said. ''I understand that. Whatever he wants to do, whether on the field, my job is to make it work. I think it's wait-and-see what we do there.''

Here are some things to take from the Giants' second straight losing season:

MADBUM'S FUTURE

The first big blow came when Bumgarner broke the pinkie on his pitching hand when he was hit by a line drive from Kansas City's Whit Merrifield in his final spring training start. The 2014 World Series MVP had surgery to insert pins into the finger.

''Really what's unfortunate is when he got hurt in spring training,'' Bochy said. ''I think he's come back and he's thrown some really nice games.''

Bumgarner is considered one of the Giants' hardest workers, but his return isn't a guarantee.

In April 2012, Bumgarner signed a $35.56 million, six-year deal through 2017 that included $12 million club options for the 2018 and '19 seasons.

''I don't know that there's anything to address just yet,'' Bumgarner said after his final start Friday. ''We'll see what happens or what don't happen. I don't really know.''

Bochy expects his ace to return to top form next season.

''No doubt in my mind,'' Bochy said.

The lefty ace missed nearly three months last year following a dirt bike accident during an off day in Colorado.

FINAL WEEKEND BUST NOT A BOOST

Bochy hoped a strong showing in the final weekend would provide his group with a boost heading into the offseason.

Instead, it was a bust - a 15-0 defeat to the Dodgers on the final day.

Still, Bochy noted: ''With what we've been through and even though we're a little nicked up and missing some pieces right now, they know they can play with anybody.''

PENCE'S FAREWELL

Outfielder Hunter Pence is unlikely to return to San Francisco after 6 1/2 seasons in the Bay Area as a fan favorite. He had his farewell day during Sunday's loss, waving and tipping his clap for multiple standing ovations throughout the game.

The 35-year-old Pence plans to play winter ball and reinvent himself with the hopes of playing in 2019.

''I still love it and I'm still healthy,'' he said.

RODRIGUEZ SHINES

Rookie Dereck Rodriguez (6-4) was a bright spot for a pitching staff that had to overcome struggles by the offense.

He was winless over his final seven starts since defeating the Pirates on Aug. 12. Rodriguez's 2.81 ERA with a minimum of 100 innings pitched ranks lowest in San Francisco history for rookies.

The Giants lost his last seven outings and nine of 11.

STRICKLAND'S PUNCH

Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his pitching hand punching a door in frustration after blowing the save in a 5-4 June defeat to the Marlins and then required surgery. He never was the same when he returned.

IMPROVED FINISH

A year ago, San Francisco finished last in the NL West at 64-98, just missing the franchise's first 100-loss season since 1985.

The Giants improved by nine wins despite all the injuries.

''It's not as bad as the perception let's say of this last 25 games. When you're virtually having to roll out - I hate to say - a split-squad lineup against playoff teams, that's what our roster ended up being because of all the attrition,'' Sabean said.

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