If there is a lesson to be learned in the 2012 post-season, it’s this: don’t push the San Francisco Giants to the brink of elimination; they turn nasty.
After the St. Louis Cardinals took a seemingly commanding three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven NLCS, the Giants outscored their rivals by a 20-1 score over the final three games. With a 9-0 whitewashing in Game 7, the Giants advance to their second World Series in three years.
The heroes of the series were plenty for the Giants. Pablo Sandoval and Barry Zito, who were left off the playoff roster two seasons ago, each played major roles in keeping San Francisco’s season alive. It was Zito who held the Cardinals scoreless into the eighth in Game Five in St. Louis at a time where even the most optimistic of Giants fans must have felt the season was mere hours from being over.
Marco Scutaro, who has carried the Giants offense since coming over via trade mid-season, became the focal point of the series early thanks to being on the receiving end of a dirty slide at second base by Matt Holliday in Game Two, remained the focal point by not only continuing to play, but by thriving on the biggest stage of his long career. Scutaro hit better than .450 during the series and was named MVP of the series. There was some consideration given, I’m sure, to Ryan Vogelsong and also to Sandoval, but Scutaro was clearly the star of the series.
For the Cardinals, it seemed the magic they carried into the playoffs slowly began dissipating after Game Four; perhaps they used it all up in overcoming a six-run deficit in Game Five of the NLDS. By the time the Giants began to open up the lead during the third inning on Monday night, it was painfully clear that Cardinals’ starter Kyle Lohse wasn’t going to get away with his numerous mistakes and that his defense, which allowed 10 unearned runs during the series, wasn’t going to help him. Neither was his offense, which failed to capitalize on the mistakes offered up by Matt Cain, who was shaky early on before settling in and pitching well.
There is saying that there are two kinds of people in baseball; those who are humble and those who are about to be. St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma was a feel-good story if there ever had been one right up until Game Seven. Called up to the big leagues to fill-in for an all-star lost to surgery, Kozma had never been much of a hitter in the minor leagues, despite being a former first-round pick. Once in the Show, he excelled at the plate and in the field. The playoffs began well for him, but eventually the league caught up to the youngster. In Game Seven, Kozma made a handful of miscues, both mental and physical. It was the kind of defensive game that conjured up images of Willie Davis in the 1966 World Series, or, for the younger crowd, Brooks Conrad, perhaps.
In the end, the Giants’ magic outlasted that of St. Louis and San Francisco will move on and welcome the Detroit Tigers to town to begin the World Series on Wednesday night. They’ve been playing the World Series since 1903 and both the Giants and Tigers have been member clubs of their respective leagues since before that time. This will be the first time the two clubs will have met for the championship.