Standing Tall – How The Giants Made Another World Seriesby Nam Le on Oct, 23 2012
Well, at least one team in the Bay Area can beat the Cardinals.
With a World Series berth on the line Monday night, the San Francisco Giants stormed their way to a 9-0 victory, ending 130 years of elimination game torment with their first Game 7 win in franchise history. Pouring rain, superior St. Louis lineup and 3-1 deficit be damned – none of it could slow San Francisco’s never-say-die spirit. These Giants have proven harder to kill than Ra’s Al Ghul, and as a result, they will play for a championship for the second time in three years.
This was not the way the script was supposed to go.
The Giants weren’t supposed to make the postseason – let alone the National League Championship Series. Not after losing the bat of Melky Cabrera. Not after having their bearded wonder blew his elbow out. And certainly not after having their Cy Young award winning ace record the worst ERA in the league.
Yet those setbacks – setbacks that would have ruined lesser teams – only seemed to make the men in black and orange more resilient; the Giants actually played their best baseball after Cabrera was suspended, and earned a trip to the playoffs without him entirely. Tim Lincecum never became a serious contributor, but he wasn’t ever really needed. Neither was Wilson. Strong seasons from Matt Cain, Sergio Romo and company made sure of that.
That grit and gut they displayed for 162 games made it with them into the postseason, too.
Against the Cincinnati Reds in the Division Series, the Giants dug themselves a 0-2 hole, and found themselves having to win 3 straight on the road to move on; something no National League team had ever done.Not the Braves, not the Cardinals, not the Mets. Nobody.
Inspired by Hunter Pence’s cry of “play for tomorrow”, San Francisco did exactly that, eventually forcing their way into a winner-take-all series finale – a finale they squeaked out behind Buster Posey’s grand slam and some outstanding bullpen work.
But when the Giants found themselves trailing in the Championship Series, Posey was not there to rescue them the way he had so many times before. Instead, the season was saved by the unlikeliest of sources.
Since arriving in 2007, Barry Zito had been nothing less than a massive disappointment – even more so when considering his 126 million dollar contract. He even found himself left off the playoff roster in 2010, passed up in favor of a rookie Madison Bumgarner. All the while, he never complained or demanded a trade, continuing to pitch when called upon, doing whatever was asked of him. 2012 saw an improvement of sorts for Zito, but few fans could have felt comfortable with him on the mound in the playoffs.
Imagine the surprise then, when he delivered 7.2 shutout innings against the Cardinals in Game 5 – perhaps his best start ever in a San Francisco uniform, considering the circumstances. The team rallied behind Zito’s near-miraculous effort for a 5-0 win, ensuring the season would see yet another tomorrow.
And the Giants refused to be done there. Ryan Vogelsong followed up Zito’s stellar work with a sparkling start of his own, setting up Monday’s Game 7.
Monday marked the team’s 6th elimination game of the playoffs, their 6th game with “win or go home” implications. Monday marked their 6th victory, too.
As this Giants team attempts to complete the same mission that their earlier counterparts finished, comparisons between the two squads are inevitable – but incorrect. These are not your 2010 Word Champions. Their starting pitchers are a little less reliable, their offense less home-run heavy. Many of the names behind that run – Cody Ross, Juan Uribe, Andres Torres, Edgar Renteria – are no longer around, having been traded, released, or retired altogether.
Even the defining element of 2010’s team, the “torture” that they faced is largely gone from this one; these Giants have played no one run games in this postseason, with wins and losses largely being decided by whoever scores first. But what they lack in heart-stopping, stomach-churning drama, they make up for in heart, charisma and personality. Any Hunter Pence pre-game speech should be proof enough of that.
Such perseverance has been remarkable. With each passing game, the 2012 Giants seem more like a Hollywood sports movie than reality, continuing this absurdly unpredictable season despite all odds.
And so here they are, National League champions once again, dancing and celebrating their achievements in the pouring San Francisco rain last night. For their efforts, they have earned a date with Tigers fireballer Justin Verlander on Wednesday, the beginning of yet another playoff series where they will be the underdogs. Squaring off against the best pitcher on the planet? No other than – yes – the redeemed Barry Zito.
Judging from what the Giants have overcome this season, they wouldn’t have it any other way.