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The San Francisco Giants' Incredible 2012 Championship Season
By Bay Area News Group, Joe Funk
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2012 Bay Area News Group
All rights reserved.
World Series: Game 1
OCTOBER 24, 2012 | GIANTS 8, TIGERS 3
Zito Solid, Sandoval Hits Three Home Runs in Game 1 Rout
By Alex Pavlovic
SAN FRANCISCO — After winning six elimination games to reach the World Series, the Giants said they wanted to take an easier route this time around. They got off to a crushing start Wednesday, making it look easy against the best pitcher in baseball.
Pablo Sandoval homered in his first three at-bats and Barry Zito was dominant again as the Giants cruised past Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 8-3 in the first game of the World Series.
Sandoval hit two homers off Verlander, and in his third at-bat he took Al Alburquerque deep to join one of the most elite lists in sports. He's the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a World Series game, along with Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (who did it twice) and Reggie Jackson and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Appropriately, the bat Sandoval used to hit the first two homers — it broke in his third plate appearance — was donated to the Hall of Fame.
"I still can't believe it," Sandoval said. "I don't try to hit home runs. I'm not trying to do too much right now, especially at this time of the season."
Sandoval did plenty, and he did it on a stage that had previously represented the low point of his career. Out of shape and out of sync, Sandoval had just three at-bats and played in one game in the 2010 World Series. That was much more action than the Giants gave Zito, who was left off the roster altogether.
On Wednesday, the redemption train rolled right through the Tigers.
Verlander, the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner, had given up just two runs in his first three postseason starts. Sandoval and the Giants doubled that number in the first three innings. With two outs in the first, Sandoval crushed an elevated 95 mph fastball over the center field wall, becoming just the sixth player to homer on an 0-2 pitch from Verlander.
"We've seen a lot of stuff from Pablo," Zito said. "It's kind of hard to impress us with what we've seen, but we were all very impressed tonight."
Others in a dugout that celebrated with group dancing and sunflower seed showers used different words.
"We were all kind of shocked," Brandon Crawford said.
"He hit that ball to dead center — that's the most amazing thing," Aubrey Huff said. "You're taking a ball to center against a pitcher that's the best on the planet. It was a great pitch, too.
"We were looking at it on the (scoreboard) and going, 'How did he hit that? How?' I don't know who hits that ball, maybe just Barry Bonds in his prime. It was astonishing."
The stunning show was only just beginning.
The Giants had another two-out rally in the third, and it started with a play that confirmed any suspicions one might have that something special is at work at AT&T Park. Angel Pagan hit a grounder to third that bounced off the bag and ricocheted into left field for a double. Marco Scutaro followed with a single to center, scoring Pagan.
"I think we've kind of earned those breaks," Crawford said, smiling. "We had some balls early in the playoffs that didn't go our way."
Everything went the Giants' way on this night. Sandoval stunned Verlander again a batter later, lining another 95 mph fastball into the seats, this time in left field. Verlander, who had allowed only one multi-homer game all season, stood on the mound and muttered, 'Wow,' before turning to the Tigers dugout, frowning and shaking his head.
"It was unbelievable," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "This guy had one of those unbelievable World Series nights that they'll be talking about for years. I tip my hat to him."
With his second blast, Sandoval became the first player since Andruw Jones in 1996 to hit two homers in the first three innings of a World Series game. He wasn't done, but first Zito would add a historic footnote of his own.
Zito added to Verlander's pain in the fourth with a two-out RBI single to left on a 97 mph fastball. Zito, a .097 career hitter, has an RBI in his last two starts, helping make the Giants the first team in MLB history to get an RBI from the starting pitcher in four straight postseason games.
"Yeah, Zito is more surprised than anybody," said Tim Lincecum, who later relieved Zito.
Sandoval padded his historic night in the fifth, hitting an Alburquerque pitch out to center. He made some AT&T Park history, too. The only previous three-homer game at AT&T Park came when the Los Angeles Dodgers' Kevin Elster did it on April 11, 2000.
That was the very first regular-season game on the shores of McCovey Cove.
Zito earned a Game 1 start with a brilliant outing in Game 5 of the N.L. Championship Series, and he was nearly as good Wednesday night. Zito limited the Tigers to one run on six hits over 5-2/3 innings, twice getting help with diving catches from left fielder Gregor Blanco.
The Giants tacked on two more runs in the seventh, with Sandoval contributing a scorched single to center. Sandoval fell short in his bid to become the first player in baseball history to homer four times in a World Series game, but that hardly mattered on this night.
Since falling behind 3-1 in the NLCS, the Giants have won four straight, outscoring opponents 28- 4.
"We're having fun right now," Sandoval said. "When you get that mindset, everything goes your way."CHAPTER 2
World Series: Game 2
OCTOBER 25, 2012 | GIANTS 2, TIGERS 0
Rolling Their Way
Giants Blank Detroit Tigers, Hold Two-Game Edge
By Alex Pavlovic
SAN FRANCISCO — After a series of hard-to-believe, game-changing plays, the Giants have learned to stop asking questions.
Hunter Pence's triple-double that turned in midair in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series was soon followed by Angel Pagan's rally-igniting double off third base in Game 1 of the World Series. In Thursday's 2-0 Game 2 win over the Detroit Tigers, the Giants scored the winning run in large part because of a Gregor Blanco bunt that died on the third base line and loaded the bases.
"It's been going our way lately," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "It's kind of nice that it's happening to us at the right time. It's the baseball gods, I guess."
Crawford drove in the go-ahead run on a double-play grounder with the bases loaded in the seventh, a batter after Blanco's improbable bunt. It was the ultimate grind-it-out rally for what has become the ultimate grind-it-out team.
"These guys come out with their slingshots and rocks, and they're going to fight you," third base coach Tim Flannery said. "These guys just believe."
The Giants scored both their runs on outs, but some conventional rocks were thrown, too. Madison Bumgarner was superb through seven innings, and Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo pitched perfect innings of relief. The trio held the Tigers to two hits, a World Series record for Giants pitchers.
After a 2-0 victory in a two-hitter, the Giants head to Detroit with a 2-0 series lead, just as they had in 2010. That year, they beat a former Cy Young winner (Cliff Lee) in Game 1 of the World Series and shut out the Texas Rangers in Game 2. The same path has been followed this season, after they victimized reigning A.L. Cy Young winner Justin Verlander in Game 1.
"It feels the same, but we know it's not going to be the same until we win a World Series," left-hander Jeremy Affeldt said. "They're not going to roll over."
Against Bumgarner, the Tigers had little choice. Bumgarner gave up 10 combined runs in two previous starts this postseason — both of them losses — and briefly lost his spot in the rotation. But pitching coach Dave Righetti found and fixed a mechanical flaw in Bumgarner's motion, and Righetti and manager Bruce Bochy felt confident that Bumgarner could find his old form.
They were right.
Bumgarner struck out eight in seven shutout innings, giving up just two hits and walking two. In his tightest moment, he benefited from another stellar play from a defense that has sparkled in the postseason.
Prince Fielder was hit by a pitch to lead off the second inning, and Delmon Young followed with a double to left that caromed off the wall by the Giants bullpen. Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont sent Fielder, who is listed at 275 pounds, home as Blanco came up firing. He overthrew Crawford, the first cutoff man, but Marco Scutaro was in the perfect spot to grab the relay and made a perfect strike to Buster Posey at the plate.
"I don't know what Marco was doing there," Blanco said, laughing. "But he was there. It ended up being a great play."
Posey capped it with a swipe tag on Fielder inches before he crossed the plate. Instead of having two runners in scoring position with no outs, Bumgarner had an out and a roaring crowd behind him, and soon he was out of the inning.
"I think Gene just got a little overaggressive," Tigers coach Jim Leyland said.
The Giants felt there was a reason for the aggressive decision. After scoring just one run off Barry Zito, the Tigers were blanked by Bumgarner. Through two games, the high-powered Tigers offense has just three runs.
"You can't ask from anything more from the starters," Romo said. "What a time to go out there with your best outings of the year. They talk about our starting rotation for a reason."
Bumgarner continued to show why he's a pitcher the Giants hope the rest of the league is talking about for years to come. In two career World Series starts, the 23-year-old Bumgarner hasn't given up a run and has allowed just five hits in 15 innings. Bumgarner's 15-inning scoreless streak in his first two postseason starts is the longest by a Giants pitcher since Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson did it 107 years ago.
"I definitely felt better," Bumgarner said. "I was able to make pitches. That's all you can do."
Bumgarner wasn't able to will the Giants to a lead, but Blanco and Crawford came through in the seventh. Pence hit a leadoff single, and Brandon Belt walked ahead of Blanco, who then put down a bunt he called "the best of my life."
The ball came to a rest 30 feet up the line, stunning the Tigers and Flannery, who has been working with Blanco on his bunting since the start of spring training. Flannery knows AT&T Park as well as anybody, and knows that a bunt down the dirt will always roll foul. This one didn't.
"It's a credit to Blanco to get a pitch he could put right down on the chalk," Flannery said, smiling.
Blanco said he was shocked when he looked back and saw that "I put it in the perfect spot."
A batter later the Giants had the lead on Crawford's grounder to second that scored Pence. Two innings later they had a 2-0 Series lead, one they're comfortable with. But after getting to the World Series with a pair of comeback series wins, the Giants to a man said they won't get too comfortable as they settle in for the flight to Detroit.
"You can't count Detroit out," Romo said. "Look at what we were able to do to get here."CHAPTER 3
World Series: Game 3
OCTOBER 27, 2012 | GIANTS 2, TIGERS 0
Motor City Madness
Vogelsong, Lincecum Keep Tigers Quiet
By Alex Pavlovic
DETROIT — You can learn everything you need to know about the Giants' dominance not by looking at the box score but at the interview podium after games. Major League Baseball has been selecting a steady stream of pitchers to represent the team, and Saturday the lights shone on not one, but two starting pitchers.
Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum sat side-by-side, so different, but in this 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers, so alike. Both were forceful on the mound, taking the bite out of a Tigers lineup that was shut out twice all season and now has been shut out in back-to-back World Series games.
The Giants are the first team since 1966 to pitch two consecutive World Series shutouts and, with a 3-0 series lead, are on the verge of a second championship in three years. Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and Vogelsong, a journeyman-turned-All-Star, differ in this arena. Vogelsong is desperate for the ring Lincecum already has.
"I've been waiting for this since I was 5 years old," Vogelsong said after his first World Series start. "I wasn't going to go down without a fight, that's for sure."
Vogelsong brought the fight to the Tigers, repeatedly stifling rallies and leaving after 5-2/3 scoreless innings. Vogelsong joined Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson as the only pitchers to throw at least five innings and give up no more than one run in each of their first four postseason starts.
In 24-2/3 postseason innings, Vogelsong has allowed just three runs and 16 hits.
"He's that kind of guy that's just going to leave it out there on the field," Lincecum said. "He'll give you everything he's got, give you the shirt off his back if he has to."
Lincecum didn't need Vogelsong's jersey, but he did inherit one of his runners with the Giants leading 2-0 in the sixth. Lincecum got the Giants out of that inning and dominated for two more, getting the ball to closer Sergio Romo for a perfect ninth.
"Look at that job they did," Romo said, shaking his head. "They set the tempo. Here we are in the World Series just trying to complement each other."
Out of the bullpen, Lincecum has been the perfect complement for a rotation he once paced. In five relief appearances this postseason, he has given up one run and three hits in 13 innings, striking out 17.
"I'm just going to go out there as a safety net kind of thing," Lincecum said. "Just being able to contribute is the biggest thing for me. I know this season I didn't exactly do what I wanted to do, so to go out there and just be able to do something for the team, that's really my goal."
Through three World Series games, the Giants starters and Lincecum have given up just one run, but the dominance stretches further back. The Giants have won six straight and haven't trailed since they lost Game 4 of the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The staff has pitched four shutouts in the past six games and given up just four runs. Over that same span, Giants pitchers have driven in four runs.
"The way they've been going, it seems like one or two runs is enough," shortstop Brandon Crawford said.
Crawford helped get Vogelsong an early lead. Gregor Blanco's second-inning triple scored Hunter Pence, and Crawford's single brought home Blanco to give Vogelsong a 2-0 cushion that would be more than enough.
Vogelsong got inning-ending double plays in the first and third innings but saved his greatest escape act for the fifth inning. After loading the bases with one out, Vogelsong struck out Quintin Berry and got Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to pop up to short.
"I go with my gut, and Vogey goes with his gut," catcher Buster Posey said of the two fastballs to Cabrera. "If I put something down that he's not convicted about, he'll shake."
How often did Vogelsong shake off a Posey pitch selection Saturday night?
"Two or three times," Vogelsong said, smiling. "And some of those are planned. I trust him, and I think he takes a lot of what he does at the plate and uses it behind the plate. We were on the same page the whole game. Give him a lot of credit for what we've been doing."
With Posey handling a staff of aces and the defense — led by Crawford and Blanco — handling anything that doesn't find Posey's glove, the Giants are on the verge of another ticker-tape parade.
Twenty of the previous 23 teams to take a 3-0 lead in the World Series have ended up with a sweep. The other three teams won in five games.
"They've got to beat us four times in a row now," Romo said. "But after the comebacks we've had, we know anything is possible. We can't sleep on these guys, no chance."
Still, as the Giants started to file out of Comerica Park, it was hard to stifle some of the grins.
"I'm definitely enjoying this," Lincecum said. "It's hard not to."
Excerpted from Comeback Kings by Bay Area News Group, Joe Funk. Copyright © 2012 Bay Area News Group. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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