SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Each of the San Francisco Giants walked back onto the field after the final out and gathered near the pitching mound to offer their gratitude.
What a drastically different encore than a year ago. No follow-up postseason run for the defending World Series champions to provide an extra month of thrilling baseball for the Bay Area.
Kevin Kouzmanoff had three hits and drove in two runs, and the Colorado Rockies sent the Giants into an early offseason, beating San Francisco 6-3 on Wednesday.
“This series, we weren’t in it and we knew we were at home, but one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in baseball were the fans in this series. We felt this was a playoff type of situation, that’s how much they were into it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s really overwhelming to see that kind of support.”
Even if the Giants didn’t win on the last day here the way they did last September to capture that elusive division crown in dramatic fashion. Even if most of the regulars were on the bench or nursing injuries.
Drew Pomeranz (2-1) outpitched fellow rookie Eric Surkamp (2-2) in their second matchup in two weeks and Jordan Pacheco added a pair of RBI singles for the Rockies, who snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Giants.
San Francisco (86-76) wound up in second place in the NL West behind playoff-bound Arizona, becoming the first defending champion not to make the playoffs since the 2007 St. Louis Cardinals.
PHOTO GALLERY: Rockies Final 2011 Game
This year, the remaining castoffs and misfits who grabbed everybody’s hearts last October couldn’t get it done in San Francisco’s quest to repeat.
That didn’t keep the sellout crowd of 41,873 from taking every last chance to cheer the 2010 champs.
Mark DeRosa hit a two-run single in what was likely his last game for the Giants.
“If I can keep playing, I’m going to keep doing that,” DeRosa said. “If I can’t, I’m going to take a break and be a stay-at-home dad for a minute.”
Departing Giants managing partner Bill Neukom received a rousing standing ovation and a “THANK YOU BILL” tribute on the center-field scoreboard before the seventh inning. Newly promoted CEO Larry Baer likely will begin discussions soon with general manager Brian Sabean about a contract extension.
Pat Burrell, contemplating retirement if his troublesome right foot doesn’t fully heal, ran in from left field to a standing ovation before the start of the seventh. An emotional Burrell hugged and high-fived his teammates and came back out of the dugout for a curtain call, waving to the fans while fighting tears.
“The thought that this might be the last day kind of took over,” said Burrell, who won World Series rings in Philadelphia and San Francisco. “If I have certain restraints, I would (try to play). But the reality is, I don’t know if I can. I’m going to take some time and see how it feels.”
This was a drastic difference for San Francisco on the final day a year after the club clinched the NL West and the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2003 by beating the rival San Diego Padres. That led to an improbable postseason run and the first championship for the Giants since moving West from New York in 1958.
On Wednesday, Bochy replaced slugger Carlos Beltran in the fifth inning, calling him in from right field and inserting Andres Torres. Beltran finished with a .300 batting average after he went 0 for 2. He is eligible for free agency after joining the Giants in a July 28 trade with the New York Mets.
“I appreciate that from him,” Beltran said of Bochy’s gesture.
It was a disappointing day for the Rockies (73-89), too. They had plans — and, on paper, all the talent — to make a run at the division title.
These two clubs were considered strong contenders to win the West when the season began back in April, and both have busy winters ahead: Among the Rockies’ top priorities is acquiring a front-line starter, while the Giants again need a big bat.
Bochy and Rockies manager Jim Tracy went with young lineups to evaluate who might make an impact come 2012.
San Francisco’s lineup featured only one starter from opening day in Burrell and only two players who were even on the 25-man roster on March 31 at Dodger Stadium: Burrell and DeRosa.
San Francisco lost reigning NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey to a devastating season-ending leg injury in a home-plate collision with Florida’s Scott Cousins on May 25 and also went without second baseman Freddy Sanchez because of a shoulder injury that required surgery.
Bochy made a late switch to Surkamp in the finale, resting workhorse Matt Cain on the final day.
Many Rockies regulars sat out, too. No injured Carlos Gonzalez or Troy Tulowitzki, the two stars who received hefty new contracts last winter. Todd Helton is hurt, too.
The Rockies completed their seven-game road trip at 3-4, bouncing back from a 7-0 shutout a night earlier to avoid a sweep.
“You always want to get a win to end the season, especially against the Giants,” center fielder Dexter Fowler said. “We ended up on a positive note. These aren’t the expectations we have for ourselves. At the same time, we want to go out and have fun next year and exceed expectations.”
Giants left-handed reliever Dan Runzler left the game in the top of the seventh with a strained lat muscle behind his throwing shoulder. He was scheduled for an MRI exam but Runzler said it wasn’t considered serious and he should be able to heal with just rest.
NOTES: Rafael Betancourt pitched the ninth for his eighth save in 12 chances as Colorado won the final game of the season for the first time since 2007. … Both teams’ hitting coaches are going under the knife soon. Colorado’s Carney Lansford needs a full right hip replacement, while Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens of the Giants will undergo surgery on his right knee. … The Giants’ franchise-record attendance at 12-year-old AT&T Park was 3,387,303. The team sold out all 81 home games for the second time in franchise history, also done in 2000 for the first year of the waterfront ballpark. … DeRosa — along with Oakland A’s pitcher Dallas Braden — will serve as guest studio analyst for MLB Network during the postseason.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)