SAN FRANCISCO -- The montage of events from the Giants' postseason can replay endlessly, like a favorite movie in one's mind: Angel Pagan's double off the side of the third-base bag ... Pablo Sandoval's home run (pick one; he had six) ... Tim Lincecum jogging to the mound from the bullpen, bringing a rush of energy with him ... Gregor Blanco's diving catches ... Buster Posey's grand slam ... Barry Zito flipping a curveball past Detroit's Jhonny Peralta ... Marco Scutaro's game-winning single in the World Series clincher ... And just about any time a batted ball came near shortstop Brandon Crawford.
These weren't just fodder for highlight videos. They helped trace the path of San Francisco's improbable, compelling march to its second World Series triumph in three years. The Giants relied on all facets of the game while winning 11 of 16 postseason contests, from the six consecutive elimination-game triumphs to the four-game sweep of Detroit in the Fall Classic.
The Giants weren't overpowering offensively in the postseason, averaging 4.3 runs per game and batting .236. But, obviously, their production at the plate sufficed. As for San Francisco's pitching, merely citing its 2.88 postseason ERA would be a disservice to the staff. The starters were scintillating when it counted most, recording a 0.99 ERA during the seven consecutive victories that ended the postseason. The bullpen remained steadfast throughout October, building a 2.35 ERA while limiting opponents to a .180 batting average.
Here's a look at what made the Giants baseball's ultimate winners:
Seize the moment:
Asked once how he stayed in shape, Willie Mays said, "I never got out of shape." The Giants fended off their postseason foes in similar fashion. They were 10-1 when scoring first. Opponents couldn't gain momentum because they rarely had a chance to do so. Until Detroit's Miguel Cabrera homered in the third inning of World Series Game 4, the Giants led or were tied for 56 consecutive innings.
When opponents erred, the Giants made them regret it. During the regular season, teams often fail to capitalize on an error that gives them a "four-out" inning. The Giants distinguished themselves by taking advantage of most lapses. Their initial postseason victory belonged in this category. Third baseman Scott Rolen's 10th-inning bobble of Joaquin Arias' ground ball enabled Posey to score the go-ahead run in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. Moreover, catcher Ryan Hanigan's passed ball moved Posey to third, where an infield miscue could send him home.
San Francisco was especially unforgiving against St. Louis in the NL Championship Series, scoring 10 unearned runs in its first three victories, a disproportionately high percentage of the 35 the club tallied in the series overall.
Giants pitchers didn't look at all ready for the postseason. Starters racked up a 3.98 ERA from August through the end of the regular season, worse than their usual standards. Manager Bruce Bochy's closer-by-committee plan worked fine in the regular season, but experts felt certain that Sergio Romo and the rest would crumble under postseason pressure.
San Francisco didn't change any minds as the NLDS began. Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner combined to allow seven runs in 9 1/3 innings in the opening two losses to the Reds. Then came Game 3, when Ryan Vogelsong allowed one run in five innings before the bullpen surrendered one hit
in five innings. The Giants hadn't established consistency yet, but the worst was over.
Vogelsong logged San Francisco's first quality start (three earned runs or fewer allowed in six innings or more) in Game 2 of the NLCS, which evened the series. The Giants received three more quality starts in the NLCS, along with a might-as-well-have-been-quality 5 2/3-inning shutout effort from Cain in the Game 7 clincher.
The pitching peaked in the World Series against Detroit, which bookended futile three-run efforts around a pair of shutouts. Had Zito and Vogelsong each worked one-third of an inning longer in Games 1 and 3, respectively, all four games would have resulted in quality starts for the Giants. And the only runs the relievers allowed were the meaningless pair surrendered by George Kontos in the ninth inning of Game 1 on Peralta's homer.
Each member of the lineup contributed to the Giants' success. Nonentities didn't exist.
The biggest producers, of course, were Scutaro, the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS, and Sandoval, who captured World Series MVP honors. Scutaro batted .667 (6-for-9) with runners in scoring position during the postseason, and Sandoval amassed 24 hits against the Reds, Cardinals and Tigers, falling one hit short of matching the one-year postseason record.
But the other regulars had their moments. Pagan sustained the momentum that the Giants established with their Game 3 win in the NLDS by homering to christen Game 4. Posey's grand slam in Game 5 stunned the Reds, and his two-run homer in Sunday's World Series clincher was absolutely essential.
Hunter Pence accounted for both Giants runs in World Series Game 2; Blanco did the same in Game 3. And Crawford drove in seven runs while batting mostly eighth.
"It's a team effort," Bochy said before World Series Game 4, describing his club's approach. "That cliche gets overused. But it's 25 guys who all want the same thing."