As the San Francisco Giants are embarking on their uncanny 2012 postseason run, it begs the question: are they lucky or just really good? The answer is a bit of both.
After their 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers in game 2 of the World Series, the Giants are now only two games away from claiming their second World Series title in three years.
Let me preface this by stating that I’m a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan. So naturally, I have been brought up to despise the black and orange, Barry Bonds, J.T. Snow, Marvin Bernard , Rich Aurilia and all the other former and current Giants.
So naturally, this has been a tough postseason for me as I sit here and wait patiently for the Giants magic to finally run out.
But, on the other hand, I’m a fan of baseball and what the Giants are doing is truly remarkable. Are they getting extremely lucky breaks? Absolutely! But they are actually taking advantage of these gifts given to them by the opposition, something my Dodgers were not able to do down the stretch.
Let’s look back at how crazy this postseason run as been for the Giants.
In the National League Divisional Series against the Cincinnati Reds, the Giants got pummeled in the first two games at home in San Francisco. They then faced a daunting task of being in an 0-2 hole with the next three games in Cincinnati.
They fell behind a run early in a game where Reds starter Homer Bailey pitched no-hit ball for five and two thirds innings.
The game went into extra innings and with runners on first and second with two out, a passed ball allowed the runners to advance to second and third. Next batter, Joaquin Arias hit a routine grounder to third that should have ended the inning.
However, Reds third baseman Scott Rolen bobbled it just enough to allow Arias to beat out the throw and allow Buster Posey to score from third and the Giants to escaped with a game 3 victory. Life-line number 1 given to the Giants.
Angel Pagan then lead off game four with a home-run, setting the tone for the Giants game four victory. The Giants then pummel Reds starter Matt Latos in game five, jumping out to a 6-0 lead before holding on 6-4 to advance to the National League Championship Series.
The advantage didn’t help too much at first as the teams split the first two games in San Francisco. Back in St. Louis, the Cardinals took both games three and four giving them a, seemingly, insurmountable three games to one lead.
One game. One measly victory, no matter how little, big or lucky was all that was needed for the Cardinals to advance to their second straight World Series.
Now check this out: game five started out perfectly for the Cardinals. They got runners to second and third with NOBODY out in the second inning. Think about that. With runners on second and third with zero out, chances of scoring are extremely high.
There are many scenarios: sacrifice fly, routine ground-out, base-hit etc.
But alas, Daniel Descalso struck out swinging. One out. The Giants then intentionally walked Pete Kozma to face pitcher Lance Lynn, who rewarded the Giants strategy by grounding into a picture perfect 6-4-3 double play. Lifeline number two given to the Giants.
Still in game five, now in the fourth inning with the game scoreless, the Giants get runners on first and second with nobody out. Lynn gets Posey out swinging, a huge out.
He then gets Hunter Pence to ground back to the pitcher’s box. Looked like a potential double play ball. At the very least, they would get the force out at second.
Nope. Lynn’s throw was extremely low and the ball hits the second base bag and flew into center field. Marco Scutaro, who was on second, scored easily and Pablo Sandoval, who was first, advances to third. Life-line number three given to the Giants.
The Giants tack on four more runs in the inning and the series moved back to the bay, where again, more Cardinal errors result in runs for the Giants and an eventual World Series berth.
In total, the Cardinals scored 10 unearned runs. Very hard to win that way.
On to the World Series where, surely, the Tigers and their batting arsenal of Prince Fielder, triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera and American League Championship Series most valuable player Delmon Young would finally end the madness.
Add on to that, you have the likely winner of the American League Cy Young award in Justin Verlander.
Things got off to a promising start for the Tigers as they got two on with one out in the first inning, only to have Fielder swing at the FIRST pitch he saw to pop out and then Young to ground out weakly to third to end the threat.
Fielder’s at-bat is the one that sticks out the most. Why would you swing at the first pitch? One of the best things the Giants have done this postseason is they work the count. They take pitches. They wear out the opposition.
Its baseball 101: the more pitches you see, the more likely you’ll get a good pitch to hit. Yes, I know that hindsight is 20/20. Fielder saw a pitch he liked and he took a hack at it. If he put the ball in McCovey’s Cove, we’d all be lauding his ability of jumping on the first pitch.
Then throw in Sandoval’s channeling of Reggie Jackson by hitting three home-runs, two off of Verlander, to tie a World Series record, and game one goes to the Giants.
Moving on to game two, I must say it was quite refreshing to finally see a game where the Giants didn’t jump out to a lead in the opening innings.
It seemed only a matter of time before the Tigers would finally jump on Giants starter Madison Bumgarner. But to Bumgarner’s credit, he pitched phenomenally, giving up zero runs on two hits in seven innings.
He did get himself into a bit of trouble in the second inning. With Fielder on first, Cabrera lined a drive down the left field line. For some inexplicable reason, Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont decided to send Fielder, one of the slowest guys in the league, home from first.
Though it was a close play, Posey applied a swipe-tag on Fielder and a golden opportunity was wasted by the Tigers.
Which brings us to the seventh inning. Hunter Pence battled Tigers reliever Drew Smyly, and muscled a single to left. Smyly then walked Brandon Belt on a full-count pitch, putting runners on first and second with nobody out.
AT&T Park was going crazy, anticipating a sure run to come. Gregor Blanco, up there only to sacrifice the runners, hit a bunt down the third base line. Surely it would go foul, giving him two strikes and thus changing the strategy.
The ball was rolling, rolling and rolling down the line as Tigers catcher Gerald Laird and third baseman Cabrera converged. But the ball rolled dead inside the third base line. Bases were now loaded with nobody out.
Brandon Crawford followed by grounding into a double play, but Pence scored from third and the Giants took a 1-0 lead. They would tack on another run and win 2-0, putting them only two wins away from the crown.
As I stated earlier, yes this may seem like whining from a Dodger fan. But there is no denying the Giants have been the beneficiary of some crazy luck this postseason. But like I said before, there is one thing about getting luck and there’s another about taking advantage of it.
And that is exactly what the Giants are doing, so kudos to them.
The Tigers are down, but not necessarily out. If anything, they can point to the Giants as their inspiration. In both series they were against the ropes only to rise up from the ashes to victory.
They take care of business at home and we’ll have ourselves a series.
This Dodger fan is strongly hoping for order to be restored.