Giants found similar winning formula to win again

The Giants’ championship formula is a familiar one, just with

new faces all over the diamond two years later: stellar starting

pitching backed by a shut-down bullpen, a late-season surge and a

manager making all the right moves.

San Francisco captured its second World Series title in three

seasons with a stunning sweep of the Tigers, and only catcher

Buster Posey was in the lineup for the Game 5 clincher in 2010 at

Texas and also the finale at Comerica Park in 2012.

”We’re just happy right now,” Posey said. ”It’s an

unbelievable feeling.”

Two of the four games against Detroit were started and won by a

pair of pitchers not even on the World Series roster in 2010, and

in Ryan Vogelsong’s case he wasn’t even in the majors back

then.

The only regular still around from that team is Posey, and the

catcher had to rebound from devastating ankle and leg injuries

sustained in a home-plate collision in late May 2011 to put

together an MVP-caliber season and become the NL batting champ. He

played far more than anybody envisioned his body would allow.

This time, a couple of bench warmers from that last October run

shined for San Francisco – MVP Pablo Sandoval and Game 1 winner

Barry Zito. The lefty Zito was left off the postseason roster for

all three rounds in 2010.

”Just as a player, certainly you want to play on a team that

wins the World Series. And to go out there and contribute, there’s

nothing like that,” Zito said. ”We were very adamant that we have

to step on their throats. We saw what they did to New York.”

Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence were this year’s midseason

additions, with Scutaro following up Cody Ross in 2010 to earn NL

championship series MVP honors. While Scutaro produced the timely

hits, including a go-ahead single with two outs in the 10th inning

of Sunday’s 4-3 win, Pence did plenty and became the motivational

speaker of this group. He reminded his teammates to keep the focus

even when they jumped out to a surprising 3-0 Series lead against

the Tigers.

These Giants showed they could rally back – again and again –

and also thrive when playing out in front.

They fell behind 2-0 to the Cincinnati Reds in the division

series, then became the first team in major league history to rally

back in a five-game series by winning three straight road games.

They did it again against the defending champion St. Louis

Cardinals, erasing a 3-1 deficit thanks largely to Zito’s Game 5

victory at Busch Stadium that sent the Giants back to the Bay Area

to finish it off in San Francisco.

Six victories in six elimination games.

”The thing that made this team so special is just playing as a

team, caring for each other,” Pence said. ”We had our backs

against the wall and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It’s not

supposed to be. That was one of our mottos, and we went out there

to enjoy every minute of it and it was hard-earned. Just an

incredible, incredible group of guys that fought for each

other.”

San Francisco ended the season on a seven-game winning

streak.

Reliever George Kontos summed it up the best he could in one

Twitter post late Sunday: ”WORLD…..SERIES…..CHAMPS!!!! That’s

all that needs to be said… This team is special…. We did what

no other team could.”

Much like that 2010 team of ”castoffs and misfits” as they

referred to themselves, manager Bruce Bochy had to make some tough

calls. He moved struggling starter Tim Lincecum to the bullpen, and

he became a dominant reliever. Another spot-on move by Bochy, who

became just the 23rd manager to win two or more World Series

titles.

Nobody figured the Giants would leave AT&T Park with a 2-0

lead Thursday night for the Motor City and not have to come back

home for a Game 6, or 7 for that matter.

Bochy, for one, is tired of hearing people call it luck.

”For us to play like we did against this great club, I couldn’t

be prouder of these guys,” Bochy said. ”To be world champions in

two out of the last three years, it’s amazing. Believe me, I know

how difficult it is to get here, and I couldn’t be prouder of a

group of guys that were not going to be denied.”

When the Giants take to Market Street in downtown San Francisco

for Wednesday’s Halloween championship parade, there will be no

costumes needed. Brian Wilson, whose season ended in April when he

needed Tommy John elbow surgery, and the man who finished off the

clincher in his place by striking out the side Sunday on 15 pitches

– Sergio Romo – are still sporting those dark postseason beards

that have made these two such huge hits.

Along with their pitching, of course.

When it comes to pitching, Giants general manager Brian Sabean

has never wavered. He has won more often than not by building

around a balanced and versatile staff.

And all five starters are under contract heading into 2013.

A couple of big decisions facing Sabean are whether to re-sign

Scutaro and center fielder Angel Pagan. It’s unclear whether the

Giants will consider giving Melky Cabrera a second chance after the

All-Star game MVP was suspended Aug. 15 for a positive testosterone

test and then not added to the NLCS roster once he was eligible to

return.

Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda, earned Series MVP honors after

sparking his club with that three-homer outing in a Game 1 win

against Justin Verlander and Co. He batted .369 this postseason

with five doubles, six homers and 13 RBIs. That’s after he was

benched for four of the five games in 2010, when he hit .176 with

two RBIs.

In three mighty swings last Wednesday night, he showed how far

he has come since then. Even after a pair of stints on the disabled

list this season, one for a broken hamate bone in his hand that

required surgery.

”You know, I still can’t believe that game. It’s the game of

your dreams. You don’t want to wake up,” the 26-year-old Sandoval

said.

The Giants again will ask Sandoval to shape up this offseason –

and he is on board. Sandoval wants to be at his best not only for

San Francisco but also to play for Venezuela in next spring’s third

World Baseball Classic.

Zito’s turnaround is just as noteworthy. The left-hander, who

signed a $126 million, seven-year contract before the 2007 season,

went 15-8 for his best season since moving across the bay from the

Oakland Athletics, where he won the 2002 AL Cy Young Award.

The Giants won Zito’s last 14 starts, and he didn’t lose after

Aug. 2 against the Mets.

”I think there’s a lot of learning that goes on in life away

from the ball field,” Zito said. ”To go through it on the big

stage … the lows are lower, but I’ve changed the way I think

about a lot of things.”

Zito will be part of an experienced rotation heading into 2013,

led by ace Matt Cain.

Cain’s season began with a hefty new contract, then only got

better with the first perfect game in franchise history June 13,

the start in July’s All-Star win that sealed home field for the

National League, and then another championship.

”What we just did these last couple months is a pretty full

year, and something that I’m going to enjoy definitely sitting down

and watching at the end of the year,” Cain said.

Scutaro was only around for part of it, but with the remarkable

numbers he put up since coming from the Colorado Rockies on July 27

nobody would know any better.

”It’s what you work for all season,” Scutaro said. ”I don’t

even know what to say right now. We just won the World Series. It’s

still priceless.”

AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker and Sports Writer Ronald Blum

contributed from Detroit.