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FRANCISCO -- The TV monitors built into the seats on the Giants' charter jet displayed a map tracing a path from Cincinnati to Washington.
That reflected the Giants' certainty late Friday night that they were bound for the nation's capital to begin the National League Championship Series against the Washington Nationals.
"Then the Cardinals had action, man," left-hander Barry Zito said.
For several hours, the Giants became fans. They found any way they could to follow the finale of the Nationals-Cardinals Division Series, since the result would influence their fate. A Nationals victory would send the Giants to Washington; a St. Louis win would bring them back to San Francisco to host the Cardinals for the first two NLCS games.
Left in limbo after winning their Division Series by defeating the Reds, the Giants stayed overnight in Cincinnati and waited until evening to monitor the Nationals-Cardinals game to learn their destination.
Come evening, the Giants checked out of their hotel, which had opened a hospitality room with food and televisions. Several Giants players said that at one time or another, virtually every player stopped by the room, though most went elsewhere to dine or watch the game.
"It kind of felt like the Minor Leagues," left-hander Javier Lopez said Saturday, explaining that in Class A, certain hotel rooms would be designated for certain functions, such as storing luggage.
At about the seventh inning, the Giants piled onto buses to head for Greater Cincinnati International Airport in Covington, Ky. By that time, St. Louis had trimmed Washington's 6-0 lead to 6-4. "We should have known that with a six-run difference, it's not over," shortstop Brandon Crawford said, referring to the Giants' 6-0 bulge that the Reds steadily reduced on Thursday.
Once the Giants boarded their plane, the ninth inning had arrived. "The timing was perfect," manager Bruce Bochy said. A horde of Giants crowded around Matt Cain and his iPad to watch the telecast. Several others had information relayed to them through their cellphones or by using MLB.com's At Bat 12 app. One way or another, everybody followed St. Louis' four-run rally in the ninth inning that stunned Washington, 9-7.
"We thought we were going one place and then next the thing we know we're going somewhere else," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "It messed with you mentally a little bit. It was very tiring. But we know it's part of it right now. That makes it exciting."
The Giants were excited to go home instead of Washington.
"When you have an opportunity to get home-field advantage, and be able to get another change of clothes and stay out of another hotel for another four or five days, it's good news for sure," Lopez said.
Unfortunately for the Giants, they didn't get home in the most direct fashion. They waited on the tarmac for nearly three hours. First, fuel was added for the longer flight to San Francisco. Then a hydraulic malfunction with the aircraft further stalled their departure. Ultimately, the Giants didn't land in San Francisco until approximately 5:10 a.m. Saturday.
"Kim said she watched a whole movie while we were sitting there," Bochy said, referring to his wife. "And I think the boys were getting a little restless."