Hunter Pence says goodbye to Giants, but he's not retiring yet

Hunter Pence says goodbye to Giants, but he's not retiring yet

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hunter Pence did not view Sunday’s game as his chance to walk off into the sunset. The Giants didn’t, either. 

After Pence gave an emotional speech alongside the pitcher’s mound at AT&T Park, the team presented him with a custom scooter, all black with an orange “8” emblazoned on the back. There was only one problem. Pence got on, took off, and then took a disappointed look at the speedometer.

“It’s going to take an hour to get around this stadium at 1.5 mph,” he thought.

The man nicknamed Full Throttle then literally reached for the throttle, zooming along the warning track and saying goodbye to fans who showered him with love throughout his final game in San Francisco. 

This day did not go quite as Pence or the Giants hoped it would. They were blown out 15-0 by the Dodgers, finishing off a sweep that guaranteed their NL West rivals a 163rd game, with the division title on the line. Pence went 0-for-4, striking out three times. He received a standing ovation before his first at-bat and swung over the top of a Rich Hill pitch. In the ninth, he had a long at-bat against L.A. youngster Julio Urias but waved at a 3-2 changeup. 

None of that will be remembered. The Giants forever will honor Pence for his energy, his enthusiasm, and a positive outlook that was on display even after a two-touchdown loss. 

“The darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn,” Pence told the fans who stayed after the game. “You guys showed unconditional love to us, and we appreciated that. The dawn is coming. Thank you so much.”

With that, Pence was done in orange and black. Nobody would say it, of course, but you don’t hold going away ceremonies on Sept. 30 when you plan to bring a player into camp the next February to compete for a job. Pence wouldn't fully close the door, but he, too, understands what’s next. And he’s ready to work for an opportunity elsewhere. 

Pence will head to Los Angeles on Tuesday for intense sessions with Doug Latta, a private instructor who helped make Justin Turner a star and revamped Mac Williamson’s swing last offseason. Pence flew down to work with Latta for four days earlier this season, in the midst of a rehab assignment, but the changes didn’t stick. When push came to shove, and Pence was given at-bats with the game on the line, he felt the right move was to revert to what he knew, not experiment with a runner sitting on third. Now, Pence has the freedom to, as he said, “reinvent myself.”

“I feel strong, I feel healthy, I feel fast. I’m going to work on flexibility and changing my swing completely,” he said. “I want to still play. It’s uncertain -- hopefully I can find an opportunity, and I’m going to look for it. I’m going to do everything I can to be the best I can because I want to come back and contribute to another playoff run.”

None of this will be easy. Pence is 35. He hit .226 this season with just four homers. But he feels like he has more to offer, and he wants to take one last shot at his passion in life. Pence plans to play winter ball in late November, and his representatives are hoping to line up a job in Mexico or the Dominican Republic. After that, perhaps a big league team will call and invite him to camp. 

Pence said there wasn’t a point where he thought this would be the end of the road, but there also was uncertainty during a difficult season. 

“I wasn’t really doing well, but I think … when I knew I was healthy and strong and fast, I was like, you know what, if I can master my swing (I) can come back and be productive,” he said. “It’s not good if you actually can’t perform, and I truly believe in my heart that I can. I can make this adjustment. I can reinvent myself, and I still love it and I’m still healthy. With all that, it was an easy decision.”

For the Giants, it should be, too. They need to get younger, particularly in the outfield, and it's time to turn the page. But not before one last party. Fans were given placards that said #GR8FUL on them, and Pence was showered with love throughout the day. He said much of it was a surprise. He had no idea what the Giants had in store for him, but when he was handed the microphone, Pence, as he always does, had the right words ready.

First, there was perspective.

“I’m not going to lie, it was tough. This season was tough,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. It was bad.”

Then, a little philosophy.

“When you have an orange and you squeeze it, what are you going to get out of an orange? You’re going to get orange juice,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good day or a bad day. What are you going to get? Orange juice. When you come to AT&T Park, you’re going to get love, you’re going to get passion. You’re going to get a full stadium. You guys showed that every single day.”

Finally, there was appreciation.

“I love you all,” Pence said. “Thank you so much.”

And then, because this is Hunter Pence, and because this isn’t the end of the road, there was more work to do. After he spoke with reporters, Pence ran off to the gym. Teammates were rushing to red-eye flights and packing up their gear, but Pence doesn’t believe he has a second to waste as he looks for another opportunity. He morphed back into Full Throttle.

“I have no off time,” Pence said as he walked away. “It’s time to get ready.”

Giants appear to be equipped for changing MLB with six homers in Arizona

Giants appear to be equipped for changing MLB with six homers in Arizona

PHOENIX -- This April, a veteran Giant called a reporter over to his locker and held two baseballs up. One was from 2018 and one was from a start a few days earlier. It was clear then that the balls had changed, and over the summer it has gotten even worse. 

When Mike Yastrzemski hit his third homer in the 11th inning Friday, he became the third rookie in the last week to accomplish the feat. The Giants and Diamondbacks came one homer shy of tying the MLB record of 13 homers in a game, set ... just two months ago. Friday night's game was the first in NL history in which both teams hit six homers. You can go on and on to prove the same point. 

The baseball has changed. Baseball itself has changed. You could even argue it's broken. 

"It ... it looked like we were playing with a Top Flite the way it was flying," manager Bruce Bochy said, a shaken look on his face. "They're getting out quickly, too. They're no-doubters when it gets up there. In this park you're going to give up homers, but you don't think you'll see 12. It's been flying everywhere."

There's little doubt about what's going on -- despite what the commissioner's office might tell you -- and that's bad news for pitchers. The good news for the Giants, though, is that they're finally equipped to handle the change. 

They actually won this shootout, outlasting the Diamondbacks 10-9 in a wild 11-inning game. Yastrzemski, acquired at the end of the spring, became the first Giant since Jarrett Parker to hit three homers in a game, and the first Giants leadoff hitter to do it, period. Pillar, acquired a few days into the season, hit two of his own. Brandon Belt added the sixth. 

On a night when they had to slug it, the Giants did. Their pitchers gave up six homers, but it didn't cost them in the end. 

Pillar said the hitters are trying to keep a consistent approach throughout. When they get on the road, it pays off. They have 86 homers on the road compared to 48 at home. 

Pillar has been a big part of that, but Yastrzemski is the real revelation. He never hit more than 15 homers in a minor league season. This year he has 28 across two levels, including 16 in the big leagues. 

"I've never tried to hit homers," he said. "For whatever reason, it's just kind of been part of the results this year."

Yastrzemski and Pillar were already having good nights when the bullpen blew it. They tacked on in extras. 

[RELATED: Watch Giants rookie Mike Yastrzemski hit three homers vs. Diamondbacks]

Pillar knew Yoshi Hirano wouldn't go back to his splitter with a runner on first, so he sat fastball and blasted the ninth pitch of his 10th-inning at-bat out to left. When Will Smith gave the lead back with two homers, Yastrzemski stepped up. His homer to dead center, the 12th of the night, would finally hold up. 

"I've been part of some rollercoasters," he said. "But nothing like that."

Watch Giants rookie Mike Yastrzemski hit three homers vs. Diamondbacks

Watch Giants rookie Mike Yastrzemski hit three homers vs. Diamondbacks

Not one, not two...

That sentence may have been running through Mike Yastrzemski's mind as he rounded the bases for the third time Friday night at Chase Field.

The Giants rookie put together the first three-home run game of his career, each coming in more clutch than the last and helping the Giants win 10-9.

His first came in the top of the third inning, and broke a 1-1 tie.

His second gave the Giants a 6-2 lead, and made Friday his first multi-home run game of his career. You can't get much better than that right? Wrong.

Mike's grandfather, MLB Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, was only hit three home runs in a game once. Except Carl did it once in 3,308 games, and Mike got three in just his 70th career game.

Kevin Pillar also hit a pair of home runs as the Giants and Diamondbacks combined for 12 home runs in a marathon, 11-inning contest.