DENVER—The Giants won World Series championships in 2010 and '12. They averaged 90 wins per year from 2009-12, tied with the Braves for the second-best total in the National League behind the Phillies.
And now look at them.
They not only spent September trying to avoid a last-place finish in the NL West, but were also headed for one of the five worst records for a defending World Series champion.
They won't match the 1998 Marlins, who followed the 1997 championship with the worst season in Marlins history, going 54-108 (.333). The Marlins, however, weren't caught off guard. As the parade to celebrate the World Series championship was ending, the Marlins' owner at the time—Wayne Huizenga—was ordering a gutting of the team's roster and slashing the payroll.
Not so with the Giants. They came into the season planning to contend, carrying a $142 million payroll that ranked sixth in baseball, according to the Associated Press.
"This has been tough on everybody," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We didn't see this coming, as far as struggling in all facets."
The Giants do have a chance for a major offseason overhaul this year. They have close to $60 million coming off their payroll this winter, although they could have to scramble to rebuild the rotation. Tim Lincecum, who is making $22 million this season, is in the final year of his contract, and there are buyouts for Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong.
The Giants, who sit 72-84 (.462), will become only the 15th defending World Series champion to finish below .500. Among the previous 14, the Marlins' .333 winning percentage in 1998 was the worst, followed by the '91 Reds (.457), '18 White Sox (.460), '32 Cardinals (.468) and '86 Royals (.469).
San Francisco righthander Yusmeiro Petit came one batter shy of pitching the 24th perfect game in major league history. Instead, he became the 12th pitcher to lose a perfect game bid after 8 2/3 innings. Diamondbacks pinch-hitter Eric Chavez worked the count to 3-2, and then dropped a single into right field. It's the second perfect game bid that came up one out shy this season. Rangers ace Yu Darvish lost his on a Marwin Gonzalez single in a 7-0 win against the Rangers on April 2.
Petit finished off the 3-0 shutout. Originally signed by the Mets in November 2001, Petit pitched in the big leagues with the Marlins and Diamondbacks before joining the Giants after the 2011 season.
Petit pitched the ninth of the near-perfect games to end in a shutout, including George Wiltse's 1-0, 10-inning no-hitter against the Phillies on July 4, 1908. Wiltse hit George McQuillen with a pitch with two outs in the ninth.
The only one of the 12 pitchers who didn't finish the complete game was Ron Robinson of the Reds, who gave up a two-out single to the Expos' Wallace Johnson and then a two-run home run to Tim Raines on May 3, 1988. John Franco got the call from the Reds bullpen to save that 3-2 victory.
Mariners righthander Brian Holman lost his perfect game, no-hitter and shutout on the same pitch at Oakland on April 20, 1990, when Ken Phelps homered in what became a 6-1 Seattle win.
The most controversial near perfect game belongs to Armando Galarraga, who with the Tigers on June 2, 2010, lost his no-hit bid when first-base umpire Jim Joyce admittedly incorrectly called the Indians' Jason Donald safe at first base.
There wasn't much about Petit's pro resume that would have predicted perfection. Before his perfect-game bid, he was 12-20, 5.37 in 75 big leagues games—including 40 starts.
What A Hit
• Rockies first baseman Todd Helton is the 19th player to have at least 2,500 hits while appearing with only one team in his career. The career leader among the 19 is Stan Musial, who had 3,630 with the Cardinals.Helton and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter are the two active players among the 19. The other players on the list are Hall of Famers, except for Jeter, Craig Biggio and Chipper Jones—each of whom are expected to eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown.
• For the third year in a row, the Astros were the first team eliminated from a divisional race, when their American League West hopes officially ended on Sept. 3. They were eliminated from wild card contention one day later. The Marlins became the first NL team officially eliminated from a division title on the following day.
• Boston became the seventh team to go from worst to first since each league went to three divisions in 1994. The other six were the '97 Giants, '98 Padres, '99 Diamondbacks, 2007 Cubs, '08 Rays and '11 D-backs.
• Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in San Diego on Sept. 4, joining Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to have three home run games in the regular season and World Series. He joined Ryan Braun as the only players to have a three home run game at Petco Park in its 10 years of existence. Braun did it April 30, 2012.