October 23, 2012
S.F. overcame Giant obstacles
By MELISSA COUTO, QMI Agency
It was a giant victory for the home team, but despite the 9-0 blowout, it wasn't an easy win.
Think back to Oct. 7.
The Cincinnati Reds had just won Game 2 of the National League Division Series, and it seemed then that San Francisco's postseason dreams would soon come to a quick halt.
But the Giants battled, winning their next three games and advancing to the NL championship series.
Down three games to one to the St. Louis Cardinals in the best-of-seven NLCS, the Giants pulled off another three-game winning streak to punch their ticket to the 2012 World Series, and push their victory total in elimination games to six straight so far this postseason.
Perhaps no team understands the power of the rally better than the 2012 San Francisco Giants.
Without their infamous closer, Brian Wilson, without their all-star outfielder Melky Cabrera, who was suspended during the regular season for his use of performance enhancing drugs, the Giants battled hard to get to the Fall Classic, and with their 9-0 shutout win Monday over the Cardinals they made it.
MARCO'S THE MAN
No one deserves the NLCS MVP title more than Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro.
And considering that San Francisco nearly lost him in Game 2, his impressive performance throughout the series came as a huge relief to Bruce Bochy and the Bay Area team.
When Matt Holliday forcefully slid into second base in an aggressive attempt to break up a double play in the first inning of Game 2 at AT&T Park, he nearly broke Scutaro's leg in the process, and it looked then as if the 36-year-old's postseason might very well be over.
Scutaro not only shook off the collision, but came back even stronger offensively, racking up 12 hits in 22 at-bats since the incident. The Venezuelan ended Game 7 with a .500 batting average and a 10-game hitting streak.
Giants' fans certainly didn't forget Holliday's aggressiveness, as evidenced by the chorus of boos that met the Cardinals slugger when he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat of the game -- and the hollering and cheering that followed when Matt Cain plunked him in the arm in the top of the sixth.
ERRORS, ERRORS, ERRORS
What happened to the Cardinals defence in the NLCS?
After not allowing a single unearned run through all five games of the division series versus the Washington Nationals, the Cardinals couldn't seem to get their defensive game together against San Francisco, picking up five errors and 11 unearned runs throughout the series.
Chris Carpenter, Holliday, Lance Lynn and Pete Kozma each picked up an error (two in Kozma's case) in the NLCS but in Game 7, it was Jon Jay.
Errorless throughout the entire regular season, Jay bobbled Hunter Pence's double in centre-field, allowing Buster Posey to score from first base, and opening the floodgates for a five-run third inning for the Giants.
Kozma, the Cardinals' rookie shortstop, picked up his second error of the series on Monday, but his did not result in a run.
PILING ON THE OFFENCE
In all four of San Francisco's victories in the NLCS, the Giants put together huge offensive contributions over a single inning -- a four-run fourth inning in Game 2, a four-run fourth inning in Game 5, a four-run second inning in Game 6, and finally, a five-run third inning in Game 7.
After having difficulty scoring runs to start the postseason against the Reds, it's safe to say the Giants' bats are alive and well. And just in time.
In Monday's deciding game, the Giants received key offensive contributions from players who had been riding a cold streak, Hunter Pence included. San Francisco's right fielder came into Game 7 hitting .130 with a .167 on-base percentage. After a two-for-four, two-RBI night at AT&T Park, he leaves the NLCS on a high note.
Now he'll have to figure out a way to keep it going against Detroit.
THE WELL-RESTED TIGERS
After sweeping the New York Yankees in the ALCS last week, the Detroit Tigers will have had a full week of rest before Game 1 of the World Series this Wednesday.
That doesn't mean they'll be rusty, however. Back at Comerica Park, the Tigers have been hosting inter-squad games all week, bringing up players from instructional league to help.
Tigers ace Justin Verlander, with his 0.69 ERA over his last seven games, will be ready to take the mound for Detroit in Game 1.
San Francisco, meanwhile, has three options.
Bochy can choose to go with veteran lefty Barry Zito, who has done well so far this postseason, Madison Bumgarner, who is well-rested after not pitching since Game 1 of the NLCS, or Tim Lincecum, who showed promise in the bullpen but was lackluster in his only start of the playoffs.
BETTERING THE BLUE JAYS?
Kyle Lohse, St. Louis' Game 7 starting pitcher, becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Could his be the arm of which Alex Anthopoulos dreams?
Earlier this month, the Blue Jays' general manager proclaimed his intentions to spend heavily when it comes to filing the gaping holes in his starting rotation, and the Cardinals' right-hander would undeniably be a welcome addition.
Lohse went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA in the regular season. The 34-year-old signed a four-year, $41 million contract with the Cardinals in 2008 and could very well demand a much loftier deal after his October performance.