Return to splendor: Giants champions again

October 28th, 2012

DETROIT -- Sergio Romo stared at catcher Buster Posey's sign for the final pitch of the 2012 season and shook his head. That may have been the only moment of discord the San Francisco Giants experienced during October.

Like everything else the Giants did this month, it all worked in the end. Refusing Posey's request on a 2-2 count for a slider, his best pitch, Romo preferred a simple fastball, which he flung at 89 mph past Miguel Cabrera for strike three.

The digital clock on the Comerica Park scoreboard read 11:50 p.m. For the second time in three years, the Giants won the World Series, needing 10 innings Sunday night to outlast the Detroit Tigers, 4-3, in Game 4 of the Fall Classic.

The Giants completed a four-game sweep in the best-of-seven showdown to capture their seventh Series title in the franchise's 130-season history. Having displayed a shortage of ego and an excess of character through so much of the season, they returned to baseball's throne the way they preferred -- with a collaborative performance.

The man who stroked the game-winning hit drove in the fellow whose job he took. How fitting. Marco Scutaro singled home Ryan Theriot to snap a 3-3 tie with two outs in the 10th.

"I think when you look at this club, the terms 'teamwork,' 'team play,' 'play as a team' -- that's used loosely, but these guys truly did," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "They set aside their own agenda and asked what's best for the club."

That included Theriot, San Francisco's starting second baseman who faded into a reserve role when Scutaro arrived from Colorado in a July 27 trade and quickly asserted his presence with overwhelming offensive contributions.

"What Scutaro did all season for us was unbelievable," right-hander Matt Cain said. "But really, I don't think a lot of guys saw what Theriot did on the bench for us. As a teammate, in the clubhouse, he was such a tremendous asset for us. That's not easy, to play every day and go to not playing at all."

Given the lead, Romo would sooner die than squander it. All he did was strike out the side. After Austin Jackson and pinch-hitter Don Kelly struck out swinging, up came Cabrera, the Triple Crown winner and top American League Most Valuable Player candidate who hit a windblown two-run homer in the third inning. Five pitches later, the Giants began celebrating.

Posey burst from his crouch so quickly that his catcher's mask flew off. Romo pumped his right fist three times in exultation before he and Posey embraced. San Francisco's coaching staff engulfed a beaming Bochy in the dugout. Scutaro dropped to his knees, crossed himself, then rose to hug shortstop Brandon Crawford. Within seconds, the entire roster was gathered at the pitcher's mound, reveling in their triumph and each other.

For the team that lost three-time All-Star closer Brian Wilson to an elbow injury for most of the season, endured third baseman Pablo Sandoval's two stints on the disabled list, weathered the shocking loss of .346-hitting left fielder Melky Cabrera to a suspension for testing positive for testosterone and performed ineffectually on offense in the season's first half, the hour of triumph had struck.

"To get two in three years is unbelievable," said Posey, the only Giant who appeared regularly in both the 2010 World Series and this one. "I think this time around, I appreciate it even more because I understand the difficulty of doing it. In 2010 everything happened so fast, it was a whirlwind."

This also sounded like a whirlwind for Tigers manager Jim Leyland, whose club swept the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series before losing four in a row to the Giants.

"There were certainly no bad breaks, no fluke," Leyland said as he praised the Giants. But, he added, referring to the pair of sweeps that went in different directions, "I'm a little bit flabbergasted, to be honest with you. ... It's a freaky game, and it happened, and so be it."

The Giants prepared themselves for their final push with a clubhouse meeting following batting practice. They summoned the memory of winning six consecutive elimination games in the Division Series and NLCS.

"We wanted to throw it out there that we couldn't just go through the motions," center fielder Angel Pagan said. "We had to play like there's no tomorrow, like we've been playing in the last series. That's the kind of intensity we brought. That's why it was that good of a game because we never gave up. We were playing with a lot of hunger. That's the way you have to play even if you have a 3-0 lead."

Besides, as Posey pointed out, that lead wasn't as insurmountable as it looked.

"Tonight was a big win," he said. "I know it sounds silly, but we'd have [Justin] Verlander tomorrow [in Game 5], who's obviously really, really good. If it went back to San Francisco, we'd have [Doug] Fister and [Anibal] Sanchez. Both great arms. So I was glad to get it done tonight."

The Giants opened the scoring against Tigers starter Max Scherzer with one out in the second inning on Hunter Pence's ground-rule double and Brandon Belt's triple into the right-field corner, which ended the first baseman's personal 0-for-10 Series skid. But Miguel Cabrera's homer in the third ended the Giants' streak of 56 consecutive innings in which they didn't face a deficit. San Francisco hadn't trailed since losing Game 4 of the NLCS at St. Louis.

Hitless in his previous eight at-bats, Posey revived himself and the Giants by belting a 1-0 changeup into the left-field seats with one out in the sixth and Scutaro aboard via a leadoff infield single. It was Posey's third postseason homer and first extra-base hit since his grand slam in Game 5 of the Division Series at Cincinnati, a span of 40 at-bats.

Detroit quickly pulled even in its half of the sixth on Delmon Young's two-out, opposite-field homer to right. After Andy Dirks singled, Jhonny Peralta pulled a drive to left field that appeared destined to clear the barrier, but Gregor Blanco caught the ball a couple of steps in front of the wall.

Cain, who surrendered three runs and five hits in seven innings, gave way to Jeremy Affeldt, who struck out four of the six batters he faced.

"You don't see many lefties that have the type of sink on their fastball that he does," Posey said.

Santiago Casilla finished the ninth to set up San Francisco's go-ahead rally.

Theriot, Bochy's choice to serve as designated hitter, christened the 10th by singling off Phil Coke. Brandon Crawford's sacrifice bunt advanced Theriot to second. Pagan struck out before Scutaro singled cleanly to center field on a 3-1 pitch. Theriot steamed around third base and slid home feet first, easily beating Jackson's throw.

"I just tried to stay calm and see the ball and I came through," Scutaro said. "Thank God."

Theriot also happened to score the winning run for Louisiana State University in the 2000 College World Series. Told that there can't be many players who have scored the winning run in both the CWS and World Series, he said, "I'll have to look that up."

The Giants won't have to search long for the significance of 2012. It'll remained lodged in their hearts and minds forever.

"This is a special group of guys," Posey said. "You have to have this chemistry and this bond to get something like this done. The memories you make with these guys are what will really last."