Giants complete comeback against Cardinals, advance to World Series
San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro (19) celebrates in the rain with his MVP trophy after being named most valuable player after his team defeated the St. Louis Cardinals during Game 7 in their MLB NLCS playoff baseball series in San Francisco, California October 22, 2012. (REUTERS/David J. Phillip/Pool)
Kids, don’t try to duplicate Hunter Pence on your sandlot or at an indoor hitting facility.
The San Francisco Giants outfielder hit a ball twice -- yes, twice -- with one swing for a Frisbee-like liner that could have resulted in a double play. Instead, it turned into double -- a Red Bird back-breaker of double -- that scored three runs in the third inning Monday night.
St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma broke to his right off contact, but Pence’s bat shattered and a piece of it struck the ball again.
Acting like it had been injected with flubber, the ball veered 10 feet to Kozma’s right in gyro-ball manner into centre field.
The Giants scored five times in the inning en route to a 9-0 victory before 43,056 fans at AT&T Park to win Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. The win comes 50 years after the last Game 7 to be played in San Fran.
The Giants will host the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.
"Every year is unique, winning the Series with the 2010 misfits, getting down 2-0 to Cincinnati and being down 3-1 to the Cardinals," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of his team’s play in the post-season, "it makes this more special."
Marco Scutaro, the NLCS MVP, led off the third with a single, his 13th hit of the series, with the Giants up 2-0. Pablo Sandoval doubled and Cardinals starter Kyle Loshe walked Buster Posey. Loshe was pulled and in came Joe Kelly to face Pence and his magic bat with the bases full.
Pence’s bat shattered -- a chip appearing to hit Pence in the neck area -- but there was enough left of the business end of the barrel to make contact with the ball a second time, sending it on a trajectory you probably wouldn’t see in an EA Sports video game.
From the press box, you could not tell if Pence’s drive was more like a Charlie Hough or Phil Niekro knuckleball.
“That was a turning point,” said Cardinals managee Mike Matheny, “we’re looking at a potential double play. It was one (ball) that had a lot more spin on it.”
Posey scored all the way from first as the Giants took advantage of centre fielder John Jay’s weak arm.
Brandon Belt then reached base on an infield single and, after a walk, Kozma’s nightmare inning continued. After fieldeing a Brandon Crawford hit, Kozma could have thrown to any of three bases for an out, but in Eddie Zosky style he chose home and was late with the throw.
An out later, the Cards infield failed to turn an inning-ending, double play, making it 7-0.
Back in Game 2, Matt Holliday’s hard takeout slide of Scutaro left the former Toronto Blue Jay twisting in pain.
Since then, Scutaro has been one of the Giants’ best players on the field and in the batter’s box. He had three hits in the NLCS finale.
Holliday missed Game 6 when back problems flared up during batting practice Sunday.
When Holliday came to bat in the eighth, Giants fans chanted, “Oh my back hurts.”
Matt Cain pitched 5 2/3 scoreless for the win and drilled Holliday in the arm to open the sixth.
Carlos Beltran has been to Game 7 of the NLCS three times and lost three times, first with the Houston Astros in 2004 and two years later with the New York Mets. The first two times he lost to the Cardinals. Monday night, he lost as one.
Cain retired his counterpart Loshe for the final out in the top of the second with Cardinals runners on second and third. Crawford took two baby steps before leaping to spear Loshe’s liner and prevent St. Louis from taking a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Cain lined a two-out, run-scoring single up the middle, putting the Giants up 2-0.
After that it was like a replay of Game 7 of the 1985 World Series. St. Louis lost 11-0 to the Kansas City Royals back then.
Since leading 8-1 in the seventh inning of Game 4, the Cardinals have been outscored 22-1, hitting .050 (1-for-20) with runners in scoring position.
“They swung the bat well, capitalized on our mistakes, were consistent with their starting pitching, they got on a roll and got hot,” Matheny said.
When the Cardinals had a 3-1 series lead, who expected Giants pitchers to knock in more runs than all Cardinals hitters the rest of the way? Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito and Cain all knocked in runs.
The Jays claimed catcher Bobby Wilson off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels and designated reliever Chad Beck for assignment.
Wilson, 29, hit .211 with five doubles, three home runs and 13 runs batted in over 75 games in the regular season. He threw out 25% (15-for-60) of runners attempting to steal.
Who will win the World Series?
San Francisco Giants.