Sons of anarchy: Giants save best for last in journey back to Series
SAN FRANCISCO — Hunter Pence barely could believe what had happened. He was sure he’d blacked out, but here he was, standing on the AT&T Park infield as a mammoth stage was being assembled in right-center field. Travis Ishikawa’s three-run blast just minutes earlier secured yet another World Series trip for the Giants, and he could not remember it happening.
"Chaos. Anarchy. Loss of mind. That’s what it was like," Pence said after Thursday’s series-clinching 6-3 win, the right fielder’s normally googly eyes a tad wider and happier than usual.
These San Francisco Giants have thrived on turning around people’s expectations of what is possible. They weren’t supposed to beat the Washington Nationals in the NLDS, and they weren’t supposed to topple the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. Their pitching staff, outside of NLCS MVP Madison Bumgarner, was supposed to be too old. They don’t have a dominant closer, and they don’t hit a lot of home runs.
None of this mattered to manager Bruce Bochy’s team. Now, the Giants stand four wins from their third World Series title in five years and a legitimate claim as Major League Baseball’s reigning dynasty.
"Just keep playing," Pence said, his teammates gathering around for the trophy presentation. "It’s baseball. Look at everyone’s picks. Can you call baseball? You got to go play the games."
Pitcher Jake Peavy, acquired in a July trade with Boston, was six outs away from a pressurized Game 6 on Saturday night start in St. Louis. Now, he gets a chance at his second World Series title in as many seasons.
"We’ve got a never-say-die attitude," Peavy said, standing a few feet from his home pitching mound. "I think it speaks to the guys we have and to our coaching staff and our manager. Finding matchups that’ll give guys the best chance they can to succeed. It’s not by happenstance that Bochy has done this with other teams and players, the Cody Rosses, the Pat Burrells, Aubrey Huff. He’s such a great leader, he finds ways to put us in a position we believe we could succeed in.
"When you have that at the top, it’s going to trickle down."
Even without the potential Game 6 start looming, it was a stressful day for Peavy. He had oral surgery that morning to fix some cracked front teeth and was perhaps still feeling a little happy from the laughing gas.
But when backup outfielder Michael Morse came on to pinch hit for Bumgarner in the bottom of the eighth and socked a game-tying homer to left, Peavy started to relax and hope just a little.
"My mind was there all day, as if I was going to make that start," Peavy said. "I’m very happy not to."
The Morse home run, which erased the first lead St. Louis had had going into the seventh inning of any of its nine playoff games, sent AT&T Park into a state of delirium. The Cardinals’ late-game bullpen plan had been effectively scratched, and instead 2013 NLCS MVP Michael Wacha, who hadn’t pitched in 20 days, came on to pitch the ninth — a fatal mistake, according to my colleague Rob Neyer.
"We were running out of outs, and you know you’re getting close to (closer Trevor) Rosenthal, who’s so good," Peavy added. "Huge. I don’t think anybody saw that coming, with the limited action Mikey’s had. Again, unsung hero after unsung hero."
Bumgarner, who allowed only nine hits and a 1.72 ERA in 15 2/3 NLCS innings, could grasp the challenge in facing an effective eighth-inning reliever like St. Louis righty Pat Neshek, but he was confident.
"I had a feeling (Morse) was going to do something good," Bumgarner said, family members and executives milling around the field, all smiles with nowhere particular to go. "No one likes facing a guy like Neshek, so you knew it was going to be a tough battle. But we had a good feeling with him going up there, and he came through for us."
Inside the Giants locker room $22 bottles of Mumm Napa splashed about and Partagas cigars were liberally passed around and lit, the fire sprinklers overhead be damned. Reliever Jeremy Affeldt reflected on how different the pennant was this time around as compared to 2012, when a more improbable comeback was needed to beat the Cards and reach the Series.
"We were down 3-1 the last time against these guys," Affeldt said, the bubbly dripping from his beard and Nike goggles, "and we were up 3-1 now. But this is a team they were saying ‘power outage, power outage,’" referencing the fact that San Francisco had yet to hit a homer in the series before mashing three in Game 5. "Well, we flipped the switch at just the right time."
"We saved the best for last," said rookie second baseman Joe Panik, who ended the Giants’ power drought with a two-run shot in the third. "It doesn’t matter how you score. Baseball is so unpredictable. You don’t know when you’re going to snap out of it. You take each day as a new day."
Unlike Peavy, who finally got his long-awaited ring last season with Boston, starter Tim Hudson has waited a teenager’s lifetime to even sniff the World Series.
Now, at 39, he finally gets his chance.
"You go 16 years without being able to experience something like this, you wonder if it’s going to happen," he said in the locker room. "It’s hard to put into words. It almost feels surreal, like in a dream."
Barely able to contain his smile, Hudson added, "I can’t believe it’s finally happened."
With former Journey lead singer Steve Perry on hand to lead the hometown fans in three straight days of late-game karaoke, the Giants never did stop believing. Not when they needed a walk-off bunt in Game 3. Not when they surged ahead thanks to a quirky series of events in Game 4.
And when the homer by Ishikawa, who spent much of the year at Triple-A Fresno, landed in the right-field arcade, high out of the reach of Oscar Taveras’ flailing arms, belief had been replaced by a realization: This team may yet again shock the baseball world.
The Giants have won the pennant. Anarchy is coming to Kansas City.