October 26, 2012
Giants stave off elimination, advance to World SeriesEvery baseball postseason, there are teams that see their seasons potentially come to an end in an elimination game.
For the San Francisco Giants, the possibility of their 2012 season ending before lifting the World Series trophy has become all too familiar.
Two years removed from staff ace Tim Lincecum rejoicing with his teammates after standing atop the baseball world, the Giants have struggled until their backs were against the wall this year, when the team plays its best.
Matt Cain has taken over the role of dominant mound presence, emerging as an underrated top pitcher. Cain won 16 games in the regular season with an ERA under 3.
The performance from Cain this season loomed larger because Lincecum experienced a rare down season after pitching effectively throughout his career prior to this season.
Five times this postseason, the Giants have been one off-game from finding themselves watching the World Series unfold from the seat of a couch rather than playing and watching the drama first-hand.
Down 2-0 in the divisional round versus the Cincinnati Reds, an error in the 10th inning kept the season alive and the Giants won the next two games to advance.
Lincecum pitched 4.1 innings out of the bullpen in game four, providing a new role for the two-time Cy Young Award winner, leading to an increase in velocity.
A six-run fifth inning including a grand slam from Buster Posey propelled the Giants into the National League Championship Series.
The Giants never threw in the figurative towel against the St. Louis Cardinals, stunning Matt Holliday and company, winning three straight games after trailing 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
After riding the hard-nosed playing style and clutch batting of young backstop Buster Posey in the regular season, the Giants have been bolstered offensively by the clutch play of third baseman Pablo Sandoval, affectionately known as Kung Fu Panda in the postseason. Sandoval has evolved from a top-10 third baseman to one of the top players currently with his playoff performance.
Sandoval has paced the team with a .370 batting average and has driven in 13 runs, including blasting six home runs throughout the playoffs.
The corner infield presence had a breakout game in game one of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers, hitting three home runs to lead the Giants offense.
The mid-season addition of journeyman infielder Marco Scutaro before the trade deadline proved to be an important deal as Scutaro has continued his hot hitting in the postseason after exploding to a fast start in the second half of the regular season.
Following his arrival in San Francisco, Scutaro hit at a .362 clip with 44 RBIs in the regular season and batted .365 in the playoffs.
On the mound, the Giants have returned to their usual dominance with the revitalization of Barry Zito.
Zito won 15 games this season in a long-awaited return to full health after years plagued by injuries following dominant years in Oakland as a member of the Athletics' vaunted pitching rotation with Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson.
Zito has provided the Giants with multiple options for manager Bruce Bochy to start after Matt Cain has turned into an elite pitcher, and Ryan Vogelsong has been a pleasant surprise for the Bay Area faithful since joining the team in 2011 after a stint pitching in Japan for multiple teams.
The Giants have emerged victorious in Zito's last 14 starts, including three in the postseason, a streak that dates back to a August 7 win over the Cardinals, the team the Giants fought back against in the National League Championship series.
The Giants opened their quest to return to baseball glory with an 8-3 victory in game one as Sandoval went 4-for-4 at the plate with four RBIs, including his three home runs.
With momentum on their side, along with offensive firepower and a shutdown pitching staff, the Giants seem as if they may be screaming in excitement with a trophy in the foreground once again.
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