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
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
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
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
San Francisco ended the season on a seven-game winning
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
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
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
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
”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
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
AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker and Sports Writer Ronald Blum
contributed from Detroit.