Somehow Giants make it to Series
- Updated: October 25, 2012
Wow! Unbelievable! Incredible! You pick the adjective. Any one of those can describe the 2012 National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and the St Louis Cardinals.
The Giants were on the brink of elimination to the Cards, and they roared back to overwhelm them. As a longtime Giants fan, I never thought that I would get over the 1987 NLCS which the Giants lost in a heartbreaking fashion in seven games. I was wrong. The 2012 NLCS does help to make up for 1987 — the Giants totally dominated the last three games of the series. The Giants used great starting pitching by Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain. All three of these pitchers are great stories of perseverance and intestinal fortitude.
If you look at the Giants’ statistics for the 2012 playoffs, the only thing that you can do is scratch your head and wonder how the heck the Giants ever won two series and are in to the World Series. I’m really not sure that I have an answer either. It comes down to heart and how much the Giants want to win. One of the Giant players who has stepped up in the postseason is Marco Scutaro, a midseason acquisition and an unassuming middle infielder. I always thought that Scutaro was a solid big league player, but he turned into the heart of the Giants.
Marco Scutaro and his play were the underlying theme after the first game of the NLCS. Scutaro was playing second base when there was a groundball hit to Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. I don’t think that the ball was quite hard enough to turn the double play. The runner on first base was Cards outfielder Matt Holliday. He went hard into second base and tried to take out Scutaro. I was not bothered by the hard slide, but what really bothered me (and a lot of other fans, and probably the Giants’ players) was that the slide was late. Scutaro and the Giants were very lucky that he wasn’t seriously hurt—Scutaro could have ended up with a broken leg, at the very least.
Scutaro came out of the game a few innings later, but not before getting a key base hit. An X-ray and an MRI were required for Scutaro a day later. Luckily, there was no structural damage, and no broken bones. Scutero did say later that it felt like being hit by a train. Scutaro played the rest of the NLCS like a man possessed — getting clutch hits to get on base or to drive in critical runs, along with making clutch defensive plays.
The Giants ended up being down in the NLCS, three games to one. The last two losses to the Cardinals seemed utterly disheartening, and it seemed like there was little hope for San Francisco. As long as they still had a chance, the Giants weren’t dead yet. The Giants had to win three games in a row to win the pennant. It seemed like an almost impossible task.
The first game was pitched by Barry Zito, a solid professional, but he has not had a lot of success since joining the Giants in 2007. Zito was also a lightening rod for fan criticism since he signed a huge contract when he joined the Giants. I don’t blame Zito for this since he just followed human nature — wanting to take care of his future, and the Giants were willing to offer the contract. Zito was left off the postseason roster in 2010. Zito had a good year in 2012, and was a vital member of the Giants’ pitching staff this year. Zito pitched the Giants to a 5-0 combined shutout win in Game 5 versus the Cardinals in St Louis. Zito looked totally in charge. After Game 5, the NLCS moved back to AT& T Park for the last two games.
The Giants pitcher for Game 6 was Ryan Vogelsong, who has a great baseball story. He started with the Giants in 2000, and was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2001 in the Jason Schmidt deal. While Schmidt had many good years for the Giants, Vogelsong had problems pitching for the Pirates, and ended up with arm injuries. Vogelsong rehabbed his injuries, but found that he was no longer wanted by the Pirates or anyone else. It looked like it might be the end of the road for Vogelsong. His wife, who believed in him, convinced him to go pitch in Japan. Vogelsong pitched for three years in Japan. Vogelsong’s connections with Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti convinced him to sign with the Giants in 2011. And somehow, with better health and having really learned how to pitch, Vogelsong became a solid major league pitcher, and an All-Star. Vogelsong had strong years in 2011 and 2012. Vogelsong pitched Game 6, and pitched very well. Vogelsong won two games in the NLCS, and might have even been considered as a possible NLCS MVP candidate. The Giants blew the Cards out with a 6-1 victory, which forced a Game 7. The Giants record in previous Game 7’s was 0-5 with the last one being in the 2002 World Series versus the Angels. At this point, the Cards’ players were in shock with the look of a deer in the headlights.
Vogelsong’s pitching brought the NLCS to Game 7, and Matt Cain was going to start.
Matt Cain pitched in Game 3, and while he didn’t pitch badly, he didn’t get any run support either. The Giants went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Somehow, everyone knew and hoped that it would be a far different story in Game 7. While Cain didn’t pitch great, he did pitch well enough to get the Giants into the sixth inning with a huge lead. The Giants were able to build up the lead due to some clutch hitting by Hunter Pence, a Brandon Belt home run and some very shoddy Cardinal defense.
It would be a huge mistake on my part if I didn’t mention the brilliant postseason managing of Bruce Bochy. He has outmanaged Dusty Baker of the Cincinnati Reds, and now, Matt Matheny of the Cardinals. Bochy does a great job of getting the most successful match-ups for his players, both hitters and pitchers. And his players deliver. I just get a sense that they really like playing for him. He’s low key with a great sense of humor, he cares about his players, and they know how baseball smart he is.
One of the things that I really love are the Giants fans who create the vibe at the ballpark. It is like a big heart, pumping blood, alive and vibrant. It courses through the whole stands— 40,000 passionate fans waving orange rally towels. This passion has been transferred to the Giants team and players. Every fan has his or her favorite Giants player, and fans dress up to reflect this. One can see many fans wearing Panda hats for Pablo Sandoval, and many fans wearing baby giraffe hats for Belt, and an occasional angel for Angel Pagan, and previously, before Melky Cabrera’s suspension, there were a group of guys who would walk through the stands as “Melk Men.” They were later joined by the “Melk Maids.”
It is a true reflection of San Francisco Giant fans — a perfect combination of passion and creativity. Most of the player nicknames are at the accidental suggestion of the Giants’ announcers, Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, two former Giants players, who were there for more bad times than good, but they did enjoy some good times as well. They rib each other, and you get a true feel for the game from them. In addition to “Kruk and Kuip” as they are known, the other Giants announcers are Hall of Famer Jon Miller and Dave Flemming, both brilliant analysts.
Now for the Giants … the World Series, and the Detroit Tigers, who are managed by Jim Leyland, a very good major league manager. He managed the Pittsburgh Pirates during Barry Bonds’ time there in the mid to late 1980s and early 1990s, and he managed the Florida Marlins to a World Series championship in 1997. The Tigers do have some very good players—a Cy Young Award winner in Justin Verlander, and a Triple Crown winner in Miguel Cabrera, the first one since 1967, a power-hitting first baseman in Prince Fielder, and a good clutch hitter in Delmon Young. It should be a great match-up. The Giants and the Tigers are two of the oldest major league franchises, and they’ve never faced each other in the World Series.
And, now the magic number is 4, and the last two teams standing are the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers. I feel stressed and tired with this postseason run, but also that I know what to expect (more anxiety and less sleep), because I lived through in 2010. I still find it hard to believe that twice in three years. the Giants, my Giants, are playing in the World Series.