Giants look to build momentum from 107-win year, West crown

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A year ago, the San Francisco Giants were fueled by doubts from outside the organization that they could contend in the talented NL West.

They will be on everyone’s radar now after winning a franchise-record 107 games and edging the rival Dodgers for a division crown on the season’s final day, only to lose to Los Angeles in a thrilling five-game first-round playoff series.

Shortstop Brandon Crawford and his teammates are determined to take that further: Adding another World Series title to the list is the top priority. The Giants had an every-other-year streak going in 2010, ‘12 and ’14.

“The goal is to be the last team standing, done it a couple of times before,” Crawford said. “That is our goal, that’s our mindset going into this year.”

San Francisco wound up 107-55 last year and held baseball’s best record for 125 days, making a dramatic turnaround from a 29-31 record in manager Gabe Kapler’s first season to dethrone eight-time reigning West champ L.A.

They open the 2022 season at home on April 8 against the Marlins.

WEBB’S EMERGENCE

Logan Webb shined on the big October stage.

He will take the ball on opening day at age 25.

Webb pitched the Giants past the Padres in the regular-season finale and went unbeaten after a May 5 loss at Colorado. The right-hander and two relievers shut out the Dodgers in a 4-0 Game 1 playoff win.

THE TWO BRANDONS

Crawford and Brandon Belt shined last season, but the Giants missed Belt’s bat and presence on the diamond during the playoffs. He broke his left thumb after being hit by a pitch while squaring to bunt Sept. 26 at Colorado.

Belt, who turns 34 on April 20, batted .274 with a career-high 29 homers and 59 RBIs. He signed an $18 million, one-year contract for 2022.

Keeping him on the field will always weigh on Kapler.

“That’s something we take very seriously, that I personally take very seriously,” he said. “… Keeping Brandon as healthy as possible and as confident as possible is probably our No. 1 goal.”

Crawford signed a $32 million, two-year contract in August. He batted .298 with 24 homers and 90 RBIs.

CLEARING FENCES

The Giants won’t try to duplicate their remarkable home run numbers from 2021, when they established a major league record with 18 pinch-hit home runs and cleared the fences 241 times in all.

Aside from the Brandons, Mike Yastrzemski hit 25 homers. San Francisco set team records with 10 players hitting 10 homers, seven of those with 15 or more.

LaMonte Wade Jr. hit 18 homers in his first season with San Francisco, earning himself the nickname “Late Night LaMonte” thanks to six game-tying or go-ahead hits in Giants wins.

Wade was 13 for 23 (.565) in the ninth inning for the best average in that inning for players with a minimum 20 at-bats since Jim Thome hit .690 in 2004 for the Phillies.

NEW LOOK

New outfielder Joc Pederson won rings each of the past two years, with the Dodgers then the Braves.

Now he’s back home in the Bay Area determined to help the Giants capture another championship.

“Some people on this team have three World Series rings, which is incredible. They’re getting on their Tom Brady status,” he said. “For this group right now, the job is not finished. Everyone has to continue to come together and be pulling on the same string, and special things can happen.”

San Francisco also added free agent left-hander Carlos Rodón on a $44 million, two-year contract and lefty Matthew Boyd signed a $5.2 million, one-year deal.

Rodón is coming off a career-best season in which he set a high for wins in going 13-5 with a career-low 2.37 ERA over 24 starts with the White Sox.

Boyd went 3-8 with a 3.89 ERA over 15 starts and 78 2/3 innings for the Detroit Tigers before injury trouble last season. He had season-ending surgery in September for a torn flexor tendon.

ROOKIES TO WATCH

Catcher Joey Bart has played 35 games over the past two seasons, and now his role will greatly increase. He and Curt Casali will handle the bulk of the load splitting time behind the plate — at least initially — following the retirement of Buster Posey last fall.

The 6-foot-2, 238-pound Bart was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft. He played just two games for the Giants last year, with the 25-year-old slugger batting .294 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs over 62 games for Triple-A Sacramento.

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AP Freelance Writer Jack Magruder contributed.

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