Lily McLean, editor-in-chief
SAN FRANCISCO — It has been a chaotic season for Major League Baseball in 2021 but no team has had a more exciting year than the San Francisco Giants, who managed to win the most games of any team in the league, finishing with 107 victories in a 162-game season.
The team has now beat its own record, with the most wins since the franchise—then based in New York—finished the 1904 season with 106 wins.
Entering the season, the Giants were expected to have a mediocre year. FanGraphs predicted a mere 77 wins as the team entered its first full season with widely-maligned new manager Gabe Kapler. Buster Posey, a star of the team since his 2010 MLB debut, was returning after sitting the abbreviated 2020 season out, but, at 34, he was rejoining a team that seemed past its prime.
Despite little fanfare, the Giants started out strong. They were the first team in the 2021 season to hit 90 wins and to clinch a postseason berth. And then they hit 100 wins, something most teams don’t manage at all. But throughout their run, their perennial enemies, the Los Angeles Dodgers, were right behind them. Heading into Sunday’s game, the difference between the two teams was a mere single game. To avoid a wild card fight, the Giants had to win or the Dodgers had to lose.
But the Giants persevered.
On Sunday afternoon, with the sun shining down on Oracle Park, the Giants geared up the final game of the regular season against the San Diego Padres. The previous day, the Giants had lost in extra innings to the Padres. The normally solid lineup of hitters had begun to waver, with only Austin Slater and Kris Bryant managing to score on Saturday. With so much riding on a single game, tensions were high as the first pitch was thrown at 12:05 PM.
The game was a startling and satisfying finish to an equally unexpected season. With a final score of 11-4, the Giants played well both defensively and offensively. Starting out strong, pitcher Logan Webb easily struck out some of the Padres’ top hitters. Buster Posey singled in the bottom of the third inning, allowing Webb and second basemen Wilmer Flores to score.
The Padres managed a run in the top of the fourth but the Giants strengthened their lead significantly in the bottom of the same inning. Another single from Buster Posey gave the star catcher hit number 1,500 of his career and by the end of the fourth, the Giants were another five runs ahead for a score of 7-1. It was also the second time Logan Webb crossed home base to score in the game.
Then, in a record-breaking moment, Webb scored his first career home run in the bottom of the fifth inning, sending third basemen Kris Bryant home. A double for right fielder Mike Yastrzemski (grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski) finished off the Giants scoring for the night.
The Padres rallied in the top of the eighth as Webb reached the end of his time in the game and was briefly replaced by the unusually shaky Kervin Castro. Dominic Leone managed to finish off the inning and eventually struck out first basemen Eric Hosmer at the top of the ninth, ushering in that final 107th win for the once-underdog Giants.
Heading into the postseason, the Giants are set to play the winner of the wild card match. They will either face their arch-rivals, the Dodgers, or the St. Louis Cardinals, depending on who wins that single game.
A season of impressive plays
Looking back on their surprising year, the Giants have had several notable plays. In a June 11 game against the Nationals, outfielder Mike Tauchman deftly robbed Juan Soto of a home run when he made a leaping catch in front of the bullpen. He did the same to the Dodgers’ Albert Pujols in a May game as well.
In June, after recovering from an injury, Yastrzemski helped the Giants recover from a 7-0 disadvantage when he hit a grand slam in the eighth inning while facing two outs. The Giants went on to win the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
LaMonte Wade Jr., traded to the Giants from the Minnesota Twins in February 2021, has now finished the regular season with six tying or go-ahead hits in the ninth inning, earning him the nickname ‘Late night LaMonte.’
Hope as they head into the postseason
The Giants have had a long year. Injuries have plagued some of their stars and they are an admittedly aging team. This may be the last season for their core three players, Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt. The latter recently suffered a thumb fracture that has perhaps prematurely ended his season just as he seemed to be hitting his prime. Star pitcher Johnny Cueto was out for several weeks after suffering an elbow strain. And third basemen Evan Longoria was placed on the 60-day injury list for a key part of the season.
But the Giants are #ResilientSF—in the last decade, they won their first three world series as a San Francisco-based franchise and two of their players (Madison Bumgarner and Pablo Sandoval) were named MVPs. Losing long-time manager Bruce Bochy in 2019 was an emotional blow, but Gabe Kapler and the new President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi have smoothly revitalized the team. And now they, as they look into the postseason, the Giants hold the best record in baseball this season. They may have been the underdog for much of the season, but today they bask in the glory of the NL West division title.