SF wants to stay top after record year

SAN FRANCISCO — A year ago, the San Francisco Giants were inspired by voices outside the team who doubted they would be able to put up a fight in the talented NL West.

Now they’re in the spotlight after setting a franchise-record 107 wins and beating the rival Dodgers for the division crown on the final day of the season, then falling to Los Angeles in a thrilling five-game series in the first round.

Shortstop Brandon Crawford and his teammates want to go further. Another World Series championship is the ultimate goal. The Giants were crowned in 2010, ’12 and ’14. This is an even year.

“The goal is to be the last team standing, we’ve done it a few times already,” Crawford said.

San Francisco closed last year 107-55 and held the best record in baseball for 125 days, a turnaround from the 29-31 record in Gabe Kapler’s first season as manager. They ended the Dodgers’ eight-year reign in the division.

The key was the emergence of Logan Webb as the ace of the rotation.

Webb took the mound for the Giants to beat the Padres on the final day of the regular season and was undefeated after a May 5 loss at Colorado. The 25-year-old right-hander and two relievers shut out the Dodgers in a 4-0 win in Game 1 of the playoffs.

Crawford and Brandon Belt excelled last season, but the Giants missed Belt’s bat during the playoffs. He broke his left thumb after being hit by a ball while attempting a bunt Sept. 26 in Colorado.

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

Keeping him healthy will always be a priority for Kapler.

Crawford signed for $32 million and two years in August. He is coming off a .298 batting average with 24 homers and 90 RBIs.

The Giants won’t be trying to repeat their formidable home run numbers from 2021, when they set a major league record with 21 pinch-hit home runs and 241 grand total.

Aside from the Brandons, Mike Yastrzemski hit 25 home runs. San Francisco set franchise records with 10 players hitting 10 home runs, seven hitting 15 or more.

LaMonte Wade Jr. hit 18 home runs in his first season with San Francisco, leaving his mark with six hits that served to tie or add the winning run in wins.

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

New outfielder Joc Pederson won rings the last two years, with the Dodgers and then the Braves. He arrives in the Bay Area determined to see the Giants capture another championship.

“There are people on this team that have three World Series rings, which is incredible. It’s like having Tom Brady status,” he said.

San Francisco also added left-hander Carlos Rodon in free agency to a $44 million, two-year deal, and left-hander Matthew Boyd signed for $5.2 million, two years.

Receiver Joey Bart has only played 35 games the past two years, and now he’ll have more responsibility. Bart and Curt Casali will split the job behind the plate — at least initially — after Buster Posey’s retirement. Bart was the second overall pick in the 2018 draft. He had action in two games with the Giants last year. He hit .294 with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs in 62 games with the Triple-A affiliate.

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SF wants to stay top after record year