Giants get help, clinch wild-card playoff spot
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Hunter Pence jumped in the middle of a champagne party and started shouting an expletive-filled congratulatory speech to the playoff-bound San Francisco Giants.
The clean part: ''Playoffs, baby! Come get some!''
Nearly 10 hours later, the real fun began for San Francisco.
The Giants secured a wild card when Milwaukee lost at Cincinnati on Thursday afternoon. Then they gave up a six-run lead in their own game against San Diego before rallying for a 9-8 victory over the Padres.
Once the game was over, fireworks went off from the center-field scoreboard and Giants players gathered in the middle of the diamond to pull on playoff shirts and caps as the remaining part of the sellout crowd cheered.
''They were just so determined to find a way to win that game so they could make this celebration that much sweeter,'' manager Bruce Bochy said between swigs. ''You're up six runs and you cough that up, that's disheartening but I thought that game was indicative of our season the way they fought back and found a way to get it done.''
Pitcher Tim Hudson received a phone call from his wife as he drove to the ballpark congratulating him for making the playoffs. Bochy followed the Brewers' loss on his iPad.
It was a quirky way to clinch, and the Giants had no complaints.
The Brewers lost to the Reds 5-3 at about 1 p.m. Pacific time. San Francisco began its four-game series against San Diego on Thursday night still playing to host the one-game playoff Wednesday, a matchup featuring either the Cardinals or Pirates.
''We got our foot in the door,'' Hudson said. ''We've obviously still got some work ahead of us these next four days. We have to win out or win three out of four and we've got a chance to be playing here. We're taking these games seriously and we have to win as many as we can.''
This clincher had a delayed party - as Bochy was all in favor of his players celebrating their accomplishment after Thursday night's game, win or lose.
The Giants remained one game behind Pittsburgh for the top spot in the wild-card standings, and the Pirates - 10-1 winners at Atlanta - hold the tiebreaker if the clubs finish with identical records. The Giants have the tiebreaker with St. Louis.
''You do want this to get done, because it does allow you to do some things you might not be able to do if you're not in,'' Bochy said. ''Sure, we would have loved to come crashing in the front door instead of sliding in the back door, but this works.''
Bochy hinted he is likely to skip 18-game winner Madison Bumgarner's turn Sunday and save him to start Wednesday for a spot in the NL division series.
The Giants won the World Series in each of their last two postseason trips, most recently in 2012.
And many of these players, like Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Pence, have experience in pressure-packed elimination games.
In 2012 against the Reds, they became the first team in major league history to come back from a two-game deficit in a five-game series by winning three consecutive road games. San Francisco then won three more elimination games to beat the Cardinals in the NLCS.
On Thursday, Bochy went with a lineup he said could be a preview of what he'll go with Wednesday.
''With the wild-card situation in place and the Pirates and the Giants battling, I think both the Pirates and Giants want that home game,'' Padres manager Bud Black said. ''It won't surprise if the Giants, and the Pirates from afar, are going to play these next few games as hard as they can.''
The Giants opened the series with San Diego having lost five of six and eight of 11 after watching rival Los Angeles clinch the division at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night. San Francisco has stumbled in September and been limited to two or fewer runs in nine of 11 games, but arrived back at AT&T Park having won 10 of its last 12 by the bay.
This is a little different way than the Giants did it in 2010 with the Padres in town to end the season, clinching the NL West title on the season's final day. San Francisco went on to capture the city's first World Series championship and the first for the franchise since moving West from New York in 1958.
The Giants won another division title on the way to capturing the 2012 World Series.
''It's definitely a little bit different, because we didn't actually win to get in,'' shortstop Brandon Crawford said. ''But we're one of the 10 teams to get in the postseason and that's the goal at the start of the year, to get in the postseason and eventually win it all. We're excited, no matter how we got in.''