There was Marco Scutaro, standing on second base, having just hit a double that drove in what would ultimately be a World Series winning run. He looked stern, but content. On the other side of the diamond, Ryan Theriot was popping back up from a slide across home plate, and sprung up screaming. The dugout was engulfed in anarchy.
The San Francisco Giants were now three outs away from winning a World Series. And the feeling was immediately one of inevitability. This was going to happen. Propelled by an incredible rotation, timely hitting, an MVP catcher and a rolodex of role players like Scutaro, the Giants were just minutes from capping a legendary year.
I’d had been fascinated by Scutaro’s season for most of October, and, while explaining the unique mechanics of his swing (again, for the 900th time) in the 10th inning to anyone who would listen, he pushed the ball into center field, bringing Theriot around from second base to score the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the tenth inning, Sergio Romo came in to work to the Tigers’ 1-2-3 hitters. The first two went down on strikes quickly, leaving Miguel Cabrera, the American League’s Triple Crown winner and likely MVP, who had broken out earlier with his first extra-base hit of the Series, a home run that gave Detroit a 2-1 lead.
On a 1-2 pitch, he got Cabrera flailing and watching. Strike three. And the Giants are World Champions again, capping an October run that has been a special kind of captivating, one that certainly captured my imagination more than any in recent memory.
The champs did everything right when it counted, and sealed a championship run that will live on for decades, passed down to generations, from those who likely even aren’t hardcore Giants fans.
The Giants’ rotation, from one to five, is perhaps the strongest of my lifetime, with only Atlanta’s combination of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery and Kent Merker coming close. And if it were to come down to a battle of the fifth starters, I have to think Kyle Vogelsong would get the nod over Merker.
Tim Lincecum, easily, has been the most surprising and devastating bullpen weapon I’ve seen in a World Series. It’s how I imagine the experience was seeing Joe Page run out of the Yankees’ bullpen in the late 1940s. The starter works, varies from solid to dominant, and then in runs a whirlwind, all nasty fastball heat and flash, only this version of the old-school fireman is a longhair with a windup for the ages.
And this team, top to bottom, was fun. Hunter Pence did his best Tony Robbins in the clubhouse and dugout before each game, the loopy right fielder doing everything he could to keep the team motivated when they were facing elimination, for five games — two to Cincinnati, and three to St. Louis. Pablo Sandoval, who entered World Series lore with his three home runs in Game 1, finally got the national stage that his Panda nickname and bubbly personality always deserved. Nursing an injury, Brian Wilson remained weird at all times. There were so many cool faces on this team, it was hard to keep track.
I don’t get attached to teams outside of New England too easily, but the 2012 Giants quickly became my favorite non-Boston team since the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks. They reminded me a lot of the 2004 Red Sox, though. A solid lineup, blazing rotation, strong bullpen and a group that knew how to have fun and legitimately enjoyed each other’s company. Pence became the team’s preacher. Buster Posey was their head. Scutaro was their backbone. Panda was their heart. And the pitching staff was the blood, shutting down intense lineups up and down the National League and, ultimately, the Tigers.
Detroit gave them their toughest test in Game 4, having Max Scherzer match Matt Cain for nearly seven innings, pushing things to the 10th inning tied 3-3. But in the 10th, Theriot, the most unlikely of designated hitters I’ve ever seen, got on base and was pushed to second by a Brandon Crawford bunt, setting up Scutaro’s game-winning RBI. After the Cy Young winners, perfect-game owners and All-Stars were through, two cast-offs and a rookie sealed a World Series victory for San Francisco.
It was as unlikely a finish as could be scripted. And it was all completely befitting the 2012 San Francisco Giants.