Season-finale loss showcases glimpse of future

Padres end campaign with 77 victories, their most since 2010

Season-finale loss showcases glimpse of future

SAN FRANCISCO -- The game and the season hadn't been finished more than 20 minutes Sunday when Padres manager Bud Black caught himself already looking ahead to 2015.

Even while he was queried after a 9-3 loss to the Giants in the regular-season finale for both teams at AT&T Park, Black spoke at length about the September auditions several young players went through this month and what it might mean for the future.

Some went better than others. Some of those players, a handful who appeared in Sunday's loss, might figure prominently in the team's plans moving forward.

Players like infielder Cory Spangenberg, who had two hits and knocked in a run Sunday and hit .290 during his first month in the big leagues. While many of his older teammates were no doubt ready to shut things down after a six-month season, the 23-year-old seemed energized, like he was ready to keep playing.

"This [experience] definitely helps," he said. "It's an exciting time. I'm looking forward to next year. I can't wait to get started. The experience was good."

The Padres (77-85) started fast, scoring two runs in the first inning against Giants pitcher Chris Heston. They began with four consecutive hits, including an RBI single by Spangenberg. Seth Smith later had a sacrifice fly for the second run of the inning.

The Padres added a run in the third inning when Spangenberg singled, stole second base and scored on a single by Yasmani Grandal, who had eight RBIs in the series.

"He's shown well for himself," Black said of Spangenberg. "This was good for him. The short time that he was here … he performed. He's young, but we think he's got a future ahead of him."

The Giants (88-74) responded quickly, getting a two-run home run by Buster Posey in the bottom of the first inning off Padres pitcher Robbie Erlin (4-5), who allowed four runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings. He had two walks and one strikeout before giving way to reliever Tim Stauffer in the second inning.

"It was a lot of balls in the middle and counts not in his favor," Black said of Erlin. "The fastball funneled back to the middle."

The Giants put the game away by scoring five runs against the Padres' bullpen, who went into the day with the second-lowest ERA in the game (2.68).

Aside from Spangenberg, rookie left-handed reliever Frank Garces was good, working 1 1/3 scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 2.00 in nine big league innings. Like Spangenberg, Garces began the year with Double-A San Antonio

"We put him in some tough spots," Black said. "Frankie has responded for the most part. We think that there's enough stuff there."

Some of the problems that plagued the Padres all season reared their head Sunday, namely the lack of offense. The team got three runs in the first inning and one more in the third inning and nothing else. In fact, the final 14 hitters were retired in order.

The Padres finished the season with the lowest batting average (.226), fewest runs (535) and the lowest on-base percentage (.292) among all 30 Major League teams. That the team won its most games since 2010 (90) is a testament to its pitching staff, the manager and coaching staff.

The Padres finished with the fourth-best team ERA in baseball (3.27).

"They did a pretty good job," catcher Rene Rivera said of the pitching staff. "I think early in the season, if we scored a little more, we could have won a few more games. But they kept us in a lot of games."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.