Scutaro sparks Giants' run to arrive at Fall Classic
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FRANCISCO -- Marco Scutaro, Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series, is new to all this attention surrounding the actors on baseball's grand stage.
Scutaro makes his World Series debut on Wednesday night as the Giants welcome American League champion Detroit to AT&T Park for Game 1. He had 14 hits in the seven-game survival test against the Cardinals and energized his team with his mental and physical toughness after Matt Holliday's zealous take-out slide in Game 2.
"It could have been really bad -- broken leg, broken knee," Scutaro said. "It could have had me out two years. But nothing really happened. I'm happy -- not because of that play, because of the way our team has responded."
In the Fall Classic, Scutaro will bat second against Tigers ace Justin Verlander in Game 1 and play second behind Barry Zito. It has been a highly beneficial combination for the Giants.
"We've been looking at Scutaro," said teammate Xavier Nady, "and saying he's the best hitter we've ever seen. He's fun to watch, all the things he can do with a bat."
It was after Scutaro settled in at second, hitting behind Angel Pagan and playing second following his July 27 acquisition from the Rockies in a scarcely noticed deal, that San Francisco took flight.
The Giants went 39-23 down the stretch, burying the Dodgers in the NL West, and came from behind to rock the Reds in the NL Division Series and subdue the defending champion Cardinals in the NLCS.
"Blessed," Scutaro said, simply, when asked what it felt like to be an overnight sensation at 36, with his sixth Major League club.
This is his second postseason -- he was the A's shortstop when Oakland fell to Detroit in the 2006 ALCS -- but it's not Scutaro's first exposure to the pressures of playing for a championship with a whole country watching.
Starring for Leones de Caracas, the Yankees of his homeland, Scutaro played a pivotal role in Venezuela's triumph in the 2006 Caribbean Series.
In the championship game, Venezuela came from behind to prevail, 5-4, with a pair of ninth-inning runs, touching off a wild celebration on the field in Maracay and through the streets of the city and the country.
A natural shortstop who played second base for Venezuela and led the series with seven runs scored, Scutaro has vivid memories of the passions of those fans.
"If you've never experienced baseball in the Caribbean Series," Scutaro said, "you wouldn't believe it, how wild it is.
"These fans in San Francisco are great. They support us and give us a lot of energy. But the Caribbean Series ... that's something different. They throw rocks and bottles at you if you don't do well. Down there they really get crazy."
Scutaro has been a star in his home country for years. His No. 19 jersey is highly visible on Venezuelans, who have seen so many great shortstops -- Chico Carrasquel, Luis Aparicio, Dave Concepcion, Ozzie Guillen, Omar Vizquel -- emerge from their soil.
"Playing for my team in Caracas," Scutaro said, "it was very popular, like the Yankees. Everybody rooted for that team."
Venezuela had gone 16 years between championships in the Caribbean Series, with the Dominican Republic winning nine times in that span. The party that night in Maracay lasted well into the next day. Among those in attendance was a young Marlins star named Miguel Cabrera, a popular figure with his hometown fans in Maracay.
Now Scutaro and Triple Crown winner Cabrera, two of nine Venezuelans on the rosters, are ready to face off with a World Series title at stake.
"It's similar [to the Caribbean Series] but a different situation," Scutaro said. "Because of the way we did it, it makes this more special.
"It was difficult to beat Cincinnati three games in a row at their home park. That was a hard test. Then to come back and beat St. Louis after being down 3-1 -- they had an unbelievable team. Starting pitching, bullpen, everything.
"It was a great feeling winning the Caribbean Series, knowing how long it had been for our country. Also, beating the Dominican Republic was great. That meant a lot to all of us."
Miguel Tejada was the star of the Dominican club that lost in the title game. A fly ball off Henry Blanco's bat into medium left field bounced off the head of shortstop Erick Aybar and rolled almost to the wall, allowing Alex Gonzalez to race around the bases with the winning run.
Aybar, a Rawlings Gold Glove winner in 2011 for the Angels, was crestfallen.
Scutaro, originally signed by the Indians in 1994 and dealt six years later to the Brewers, has been released by Milwaukee and the Mets, with whom he began his Major League career in 2002.
Scutaro was playing far under the radar in Colorado, sent there by Boston, when he learned he'd been dealt to San Francisco for 23-year-old second baseman Charlie Culberson.
Giants fans quickly took a liking to the new guy -- how could they resist? Scutaro hit .362 with 44 RBIs and 40 runs scored in 61 games in a Giants uniform. He was deadly in two series against the Dodgers, who dropped five of six and fell out of contention.
"A lot of things were going through my mind," said Scutaro, who was caught looking to the heavens as a heavy rain fell in the final moments of Game 7 against the Cardinals. "Anybody who gets this far, it's a special feeling.
"I've played a long time, and I'm in a World Series. I've been traded twice this year. It's kind of crazy, you know?"
Yes, but not nearly as crazy as those rabid fans in his homeland.