Hunter Pence thrives in the strangeness of October

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

As quirky as Hunter Pence is, this time he really was off the wall.

Tongue wagging, a leaping Pence robbed Washington's Jayson Werth of extra bases, crashing back-first into the right-field fence for one of the defining defensive plays so far this postseason.

Pence is thrilled a bunch of San Francisco fans got a close-up view of the grab. Several of them were standing just a few feet behind him in the fenced archway at AT&T Park on Tuesday night as the Giants closed out the Nationals in the NL Division Series.

“Looking at the picture, that's what I think is really awesome,” Pence said. “I'm like, 'I wonder if any of these people get to see this picture?' I hope that it's really cool to them. Sharing a moment, I think my favorite part of what I saw of the clip was the fans' reaction. I'm very grateful to be a part of that.”

On the road, the fans flock to him, too, albeit to playfully mock him.

At Citi Field in New York, the Mets' crowd poked fun at him at every chance, waving signs such as “Hunter Pence Can't Parallel Park” or “Hunter Pence Eats Pizza With A Fork.”

With that odd throwing motion and unconventional stance and swing, Pence is an easy target. Then again, a ball he hit during the Giants' run to the 2012 World Series championship was something so strange, no one had seen anything like it.

The ball came off Pence's broken bat three times on a single swing and changed direction for a key two-run double in a 9-0 victory against St. Louis in the Game 7 NL Championship Series clincher.

These days, with another NLCS matchup against the Cardinals on deck, Pence isn't getting pensive.

“Everything that's happened in the past, it's done, it's history,” he said. “So, this is a new and separate experience in and of itself. It's a tremendous honor and a privilege to take the field with these guys.”

Pence is as reliable for his antics and what manager Bruce Bochy has called a “unique style of hitting” as he is for being written into the lineup each day.

After Pence played every game in 2013 in his first full season with the Giants and earned himself a new $90 million, five-year contract, Bochy spoke of possibly giving him a rest on occasion. But he wasn't held out of the starting lineup until Game 161, and still played in all 162. Pence has appeared in 383 consecutive games.

With his unruly curly hair pulled back by a black headband or tucked into his “LINCECUM KNOWS” cap, the 31-year-old Pence earned his third All-Star nod this year. He batted .277 with 20 home runs and 74 RBIs.

A health nut who feasts on kale salad and raw veggies, Pence helped inspire an edible garden behind the center-field fence that's believed to be the first of its kind in pro sports.

Pence took the high road in May when his beloved custom motor scooter — his transportation to and from games — went missing. He got it back after announcing there would be no hard feelings and promising to gift a signed bobblehead (of him on the scooter, of course) as a reward if his ride was returned.

Pence often gathers his teammates together to let them know how proud he is to be part of this group for another special October.

When the Giants sealed a spot in the NL wild-card game, Pence provided an expletive-filled speech — he later apologized for the salty language getting aired — congratulating the Giants for hanging in through the injuries, doubts and skids. He also asked the home fans if they wanted another game by the bay, receiving a resounding “YES! YES! YES!” That has become the club's postseason mantra.

“Any player will say that there's no accomplishment greater than what you do as a team in the postseason,” Pence said. “It's an honor to play for this city, these guys.”

Hunter PenceMLBNLCSOctoberSan Francisco Giants

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