BREAKING: Giants’ Pablo Sandoval hears the cheers from home fans, probably for the last time

Pablo Sandoval of the Giant relaxes in the dugout Tuesday night before Game 2 of the Bay Bridge Series at Oracle Park.

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants trailed 2-0 in the top of the sixth inning of an exhibition that was meaningless until Pablo Sandoval was sent into the game to replace third baseman Matt Chapman.

It was at that point the crowd of 27,706, Giants and A’s fans alike, as well as the home dugout, rose in unison in celebration of the iconic “Panda” who likely played his final game with the organization that first brought him to the major leagues in 2008.



Sandoval even rewarded the fans with a broken bat single in his final at-bat, the start of a rally that saw the Giants score their lone run in the ninth of a 3-1 loss to the Athletics in the Bay Bridge Series.

Rather than send Sandoval out initially, Giants manager Bob Melvin waited and then sent Sandoval into the game to get his proper due.

Talking with reporters before the game, Melvin wouldn’t divulge how he would use Sandoval but did say he expected a large ovation.

“I expect it to be immense,” Melvin said. “It has been all spring long and I wouldn’t expect it to be anything different. Especially here. Got a plan for him.”

Sandoval got standing ovation No. 2 with two out in the sixth, facing relief pitcher Austin Adams with the A’s leading 3-0.



He wasn’t going up to the plate to walk.

Sandoval fouled off four straight pitches before striking out on a foul tip. As he walked to the dugout, Sandoval received his third standing ovation.

 


Leading off the ninth against right-hander Vinny Nittoli and the fans chanting “Let’s go Panda,” Sandoval rose to the moment by punching a broken bat single to right after seeing seven pitches and swinging at six. He was removed to yet another standing ovation.

The Giants closed to within 3-1 on an RBI single by Joey Bart, but got no further.

In all, Sandoval saw 13 pitches and swung the bat 11 times.

“Whatever it take to get that hit,” Sandoval said in the postgame clubhouse. I’ve always been a free swinger . . . I had one more opportunity to wear this uniform this year. Had great fan support. I don’t know if it’s my last at-bat here but it was unbelievable. Getting the hit was the most important thing — not for me, for the fans.”


 

The Giants have not yet announced whether Sandoval would remain with the organization, perhaps playing in Triple-A Sacramento, or be released at age 37. Sandoval has expressed a willingness to go to Sacramento, but hasn’t yet spoken to president of operations Farhan Zaidi.

“Everyone thinks I’m retired. I’m not,” Sandoval said. “I want to continue playing . . . I’ll talk to him, see what’s going on.”

Sandoval played with the Giants from 2008 through 2014 — on three world champions — and again as a spot pinch hitter and reserve from 2017 to 2020. He said his favorite memories were his first major league home run against Livan Hernandez, his three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series against Detroit, the three World Series championships, pitching a scoreless ninth against the Dodgers in 2019 along with probable finale Tuesday night.

The drama of Sandoval’s final at-bat was not lost on his teammates.

“It was awesome to see a guy that’s had such success in his career here to be fighting for that hit,”  right fielder Mike Yastrzemski said. “That’s as fun as baseball gets.”

In 571 games at AT&T Park (the name of the Giants park for most of his Giants tenure), Sandoval hit .302 with 66 home runs and 288 RBIs in 571 games.

Sandoval played two seasons with the Atlanta Braves and spent the last two seasons playing in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

Returning to the Giants for spring training, Sandoval was 5-for-25 (.200) coming in with no home runs and two RBIs.

A’s manager Mark Kotsay feigned anger for Sandoval taking away a hit opportunity with a defensive gem, of all things.

“All that comes to mind when you say Pablo Sandoval is my last game here as a San Diego Padre, my first at-bat of the game, I hit a line drove — smoked a line drive — and he laid out and caught it,” Kotsay said. “My last chance to get a hit in a big league game and he stole it from me.”

Kotsay said the decision on whether or not to play is best left for the individual.

“A lot of times guys ask me, when did you know it was the right time to take the uniform off?,” Kotsay said. “I always say, you’ll know when it’s the right time. The game will tell you. Obviously Pablo doesn’t feel that way. My advice is always to make them take it off. I think he’s one guy that’s going to make them take it off him.”