Just a few days after the St. Louis Cardinals had pushed them within a game of elimination, the San Francisco Giants were standing in a downpour, celebrating the final out of a 9-0 drubbing in Game 7 of the NLCS.
In an October packed with improbable outcomes in both leagues, the Giants’ roaring comeback topped every storyline. Where Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner failed, journeyman Ryan Vogelsong and a resurgent Barry Zito thrived. While Bustery Posey and Brandon Belt were relatively quiet, Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence paced the lineup.
And in the middle of it all was Marco Scutaro, an afterthought plugged into second base at the trade deadline, batting .500 and propelling the Giants to another pennant. There was Scutaro, who had spent more than half of his Major League career working to prove that he deserved a spot in a starting lineup, holding his NLCS MVP trophy, his 14 hits tying an LCS series record.
For a team that seems to have “destiny” scribbled all over it, Scutaro is a fitting face, a veteran playing the best baseball of his life in an effort to advance to his first World Series. But it’s more than just scrappy inspiration that makes him the poster child of the 2012 Giants. In his post-series wrapup this morning, Tom Verducci shared a fantastic little tidbit on Scutaro:
Giants GM Brian Sabean caught me off guard a bit before the postseason when he identified “our two best hitters: [Buster Posey] and [Marco] Scutaro.” Now I get it. [Giants hitting coach Hensley] Meulens told me before the playoffs began that, “I’ve never seen anybody like him” — not because Scutaro almost never swings and misses (just 17 times in three months as a Giant) but because he hits the ball squarely more often than anybody else.
That’s certainly the Scutaro I watched for two seasons in New England. In 2010, as uplifting a doomed season as I can remember, Scutaro slid into the leadoff spot for the Boston Red Sox when Jacoby Ellsbury went out for virtually the entire season, and he clicked along as if he always belonged there. He ended that season despite playing with a shoulder torn to shreds. Rather than accept a move to the bench, he grudgingly let manager Terry Francona move him to second base for the last few weeks of the season, giving him a break on the throw to first. But he kept plugging away, and he remained a catalyst for a depleted lineup.
The way he ended 2011 was even more impressive. After missing time in the summer with another injury, Scutaro caught fire while the rest of the team began to go down in flames. The fact that they only missed the playoffs by one game was, in retrospect, due to Scutaro’s persistence down the stretch. In September, Scutaro had a 1.019 OPS — huge for a line-drive hitter — with two home runs, 21 RBI, a .387 average and 10 walks in 108 trips to the plate. He struck out only six times. He was on a mission, and that it failed was no reflection on him.
Of course, he was traded. The Red Sox didn’t have a lot to get behind in 2012, and Scutaro’s absence was another void in a lost season.
But there he was, standing at second base as the rain poured down on Monday night, an early christening of the Giants latest National League pennant. And he was smiling, catching the drops in his mouth, basking in the glow of the first World Series of his career.
Now, I couldn’t be happier that the Red Sox sent Scutaro to Colorado in the winter, or that Colorado fell out and had him pack his bags for The City in July. After 11 years and six stops in the Major Leagues, Scutaro is heading to the World Series. Lord knows he’s earned it.