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FRANCISCO -- And to think, the Colorado Rockies paid the Giants to take Marco Scutaro off their hands.
By late July, Scutaro was a luxury to the Rockies, on the National League West skids. General manager Dan O'Dowd saw a chance to save some of the $2 million still due Scutaro, so he packaged $1 million of that obligation with the infielder and sent them both to San Francisco, acquiring Minor League infielder Charlie Culberson in return.
Make no mistake, O'Dowd knew he was doing a favor for Scutaro. Guys who always play with every ounce of their heart and to the last drop of their perspiration deserve such consideration.
"I wish I could see Dan O'Dowd right now," Scutaro said Sunday evening. "I'd kiss him on the lips. He made this happen for me. He told me he was going to send me to the team that was the best place for me to have a chance to win. He was right."
He was right to the tune of positioning Scutaro, who has hungered through 1,259 Major League games, within nine innings of possibly his first career World Series appearance.
Most hits in a single LCS
14 others tied with 11
But the Giants haven't exactly brought him here. Other way around. It was Scutaro's two-run double that keyed the put-away four-run rally against Chris Carpenter in the second inning of Sunday night's 6-1 Game 6 victory over the Cardinals. Another hit later in the game set Scutaro's NLCS average at .458, with four RBIs.
What the Giants didn't realize was how big a favor O'Dowd was doing for them. None of them, from general manager Brian Sabean to manager Bruce Bochy to the teammates in the clubhouse.
They all knew Scutaro was a decent player. They didn't know he was a NLCS MVP in the making.
"We knew him as a great all-around player," said Sabean, who originally had acquired Scutaro to man third base while Pablo Sandoval was out with a leg injury. "When we really caught fire was when [Angel] Pagan returned to the leadoff spot and Scutaro became one of the better second hitters in all of baseball. He's a dangerous hitter."
"I can't say enough about what he's done for us since we got him," Bochy said. "He's such a good, smart player and a clutch player. He's a tough out."
And tough to get out. Remember that Matt Holliday slide? Instead of knocking the wind out of Scutaro, it knocked some hits into him. He is 9-for-19 since Holliday flattened him in the first inning of Game 2.
"I got a little fame from getting hit by Holliday. It was kind of weird," said Scutaro, who off the field can be best described as "rascally."
"He's one of the best second-place hitters in the game," said Pagan. "I mean, every time I get on base, he's putting the ball in play, moving it around for whatever is needed. Hit and run, through the hole, whatever."
"That's the blockbuster trade we made, that guy," said closer Sergio Romo. "He's an unbelievable leader by example on the field. Without him, we definitely wouldn't be in this position."
It wouldn't seem to be a comfortable position, night after night staring into the offseason void. But night after night, the Giants keep pushing back the darkness.
"I'm just happy to be here in this situation," Scutaro said. "And just trying to do my best to help my team and spend one more day with them. It's been fun the last couple of days watching these guys pitch and playing behind those guys. The last game in St. Louis was big for us, bringing the series back home. And tomorrow is Game 7. It doesn't get any better than that."
The last time the Giants were involved in a winner-take-all game -- Oct. 11, in Cincinnati -- Scutaro watched Romo and the Reds' Jay Bruce battle through a 12-pitch at-bat in the ninth inning of a two-run game, with two men on base, and all sort of thoughts ran through his mind.
The weirdest thought was the one that took him back to Boston a year earlier, when he participated in the Red Sox's infamous collapse out of a certain postseason spot.
"[Bruce] kept fouling pitches off," Scutaro recalled, "and I was thinking, 'Please God don't make me feel that [Boston feeling] again.'"
Of course, it does get better than Game 7: when you get past it, and hit the Fall Classic clearing.
"Well, it is another game," Scutaro said, looking forward to Game 7. "But of course it's a little more intense. But I think you've got to stick with your game. I need to get on base for my teammates behind me and just stick with my game. I don't try to do too much. Sometimes when you try to do too much in this game, you wind up not being able to do anything."
Scutaro appreciates where he is because of where he was three months ago, but also because of where he was eight years ago: falling one rung short of a World Series with the rest of the 2004 Oakland A's, and seeing the pain on older teammates' faces.
"It was my first full year in the big leagues, and I saw guys with 10 years in the big leagues like [Mark] Kotsay and [Jason] Kendall with tears in their eyes," Scutaro said. "That's when I realized how special this is."