SAN FRANCISCO---On Fan Appreciation Day, the San Francisco Giants gave fans a game to remember. To end the 2013 regular season, the Giants beat the San Diego Padres 7-6.
The day had it all—changes in lead, the home team falling behind, and, naturally, a walk-off win for the good guys.
On a day that triggered plenty of celebration, it also brought a few bittersweet moments—namely a well-deserved farewell to Giants pitcher Barry Zito.
Zito was given the ovation that many fans felt he was cheated out of on the day of his last start when he was pulled out of the game without the fans having an opportunity to send him off properly.
Today, in Game 162, Zito came in to face former teammate Mark Kotsay, who happened to be retiring after 17 years in the big leagues. Zito struck out Kotsay and left the field to thunderous applause. He tipped his cap, patted his chest with his glove, and thanked the fans as they showed an outpouring of love to the pitcher with the infamous contract that is now up.
“He was going to pitch,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Zito. “I wanted to give him the great sendoff that he deserves. What the fans did for him was something I won’t forget, I’m sure. It’s always going to stay with him, that memory. Like I said, it felt like a playoff game and Barry even said that.”
Zito left the game as the Giants trailed by a run in the eighth. The team failed to score in the bottom half of the inning and closer Sergio Romo shut the Padres down in the top of the ninth.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Giants tied the game with a solo home run from Francisco Peguero—the first of his career. San Francisco then managed to load the bases with no outs. Perfecting the drama, Hunter Pence, with the ink from his new five-year contract with the Giants barely dry, comes to the plate.
“My spirits were lifted,” Pence said about how he felt before that at-bat. “They showed me this faith to make this deal happen and it brings about—obviously, every game I try to give it everything I have, but—it’s just a positive feeling within. Like, they believe in me and I’m going to show them why.”
Pence singled to center field for his first walk-off hit as a San Francisco Giant.
Of course he did.
In the last game of the regular season, one era ended with a fond farewell and another began with walk-off win.