SAN FRANCISCO–The 1985 San Francisco Giants can finally kick back and celebrate with a champagne toast.
After the 2017 Giants decimated the San Diego Padres with an 8-0 victory on Friday night, the 1985 club will remain the only team in franchise history to lose 100 games in a single season.
Though it took the Giants until the final weekend of the regular season, they finally staved off the embarrassment associated with hitting the century mark in the loss column by taking down a fourth place team that’s dominated San Francisco all year long.
Behind 6.2 shutout innings from rookie Chris Stratton and four hits from second baseman Joe Panik, manager Bruce Bochy’s club put together a thorough effort on both sides of the ball that ensured the club will finish the season with a loss total in the high nineties.
While Friday night began with a celebration of the Giants’ backup catcher, Nick Hundley, it ended with a win thanks in large part to the efforts of its All-Star starter, Buster Posey. Prior to the start of Friday’s contest, Hundley was presented with the Giants’ highest honor, the Willie Mac Award, which is bestowed upon the club’s most inspirational player.
“This is pretty overwhelming to be standing here with Giants legends and be standing here in the same company with Willie McCovey,” Hundley said before the game.
Though Hundley spent much of the season playing second fiddle to Posey, Friday marked his 100th game of the season, and his 64th start behind the plate. After entering the year with a reputation as an offensive-minded catcher, Hundley’s performance against the Padres proved yet again how far his defense has progressed in his first campaign with San Francisco. Throughout the second half, Stratton has credited Hundley with helping him gain confidence in his fastball and assisting him with understanding how to attack hitters, and on Friday, the duo again worked in harmony.
With an assignment to catch 13th-year veteran and retiring right-hander Matt Cain looming on Saturday, Posey spent Friday manning first base, and saving much of his impact for the batter’s box. It was Posey’s first inning double that opened the scoring against San Diego starter Jordan Lyles, and his fourth inning RBI double that helped turn the game into a blowout.
The Giants’ order hasn’t offered Posey much protection this year, but against San Diego, base hits from Panik in the first and fourth innings coupled with RBI singles from shortstop Brandon Crawford in each of those frames helped San Francisco take advantage of an excellent chance to rip off the team’s all-important 63rd win of the regular season.
With the way Stratton dealt on Friday, the Giants’ early offensive outburst was more than enough for a former first round draft pick who capped off the best season of his professional career with another strong outing. For the third time this season, Stratton threw at least 6.0 innings without allowing a run, helping his cause to enter Spring Training in 2018 as the odds-on favorite to win the fifth spot in the Giants’ rotation. Though Stratton will have to fend off challengers like fellow rookie Ty Blach and prospects like Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez, he finished the 2017 season with a 3.68 earned run average over nearly 60 innings of work and tossed in a handful of memorable outings that should leave a lasting impression on Bochy and the Giants’ front office.
With the win on Friday, the Giants did save themselves from the possibility of tying the 1985 club for the franchise record in losses. Still, a series-opening win over a struggling San Diego team won’t be enough to wash away the deeply-rooted issues that have materialized over the past six months. From a wins and losses standpoint, the 2017 Giants won’t match the futility of the 1985 Giants. But relative to the expectations that existed for this year’s club out of Spring Training, it’s impossible to find a more disappointing team in franchise history.
On Friday night, the Giants salvaged their one remaining goal for the year. But the fact the goal of avoiding 100 losses ever arose in the first place is a disappointment that won’t soon be forgotten.