Giants soak up their first Game 7 win in franchise history


Giants soak up their first Game 7 win in franchise history


SAN FRANCISCO It was a moment to soak in, and be soakedin.

Small lakes formed between third base and shortstop. Waterdrained in sheets from both dugouts. The Giants were one out away fromcompleting their second three-game resurrection this postseason, and claimingtheir fifth NL pennant in 55 seasons since leaving the Polo Grounds, and allanyone could think was, Get me inside and out of this rain!

No big deal, bench coach Ron Wotus said. We were allgoing to get wet after the game, so it didnt matter.

The Giants did make it back to their clubhouse after SergioRomo got a pop-up from Matt Holliday, series MVP Marco Scutaro saw it throughthe fat drops and then he punched the sky as they celebrated a 9-0 victory overthe St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park.

BAGGS' INSTANT REPLAY: The Giants win the pennant

Then it was time to get good and soaked indoors. Sergio Romoscampered about, holding a souvenir newspaper and yelling, The Giants win thepennant! Ryan Vogelsong got blasted with eye-stinging champagne as a ski visorthe size of night-vision goggles sat atop his head. Outside the ballpark,thousands of car horns blared and a city buzzed once again over their focused,passionate team that held onto belief when everyone else let it slip like acurveball in the rain.

There was no dampening this party.

That just didnt make any sense, said winning pitcher MattCain, and we think he was talking about the rain, and not a team that has nowrattled off six win-or-go-home victories against the Cardinals and CincinnatiReds to tie the 1985 Kansas City Royals for the most in a single postseason.

They did it by outscoring the Cardinals 20-1 over the finalthree games a Barry Zito gem at Busch Stadium that proved to be the turningpoint, followed by determined outings from Vogelsong and Cain in front of theloudest crowd in baseball.

They did it with a bullpen that allowed a grand total of tworuns over the six elimination games.

They did it by relying on Scutaro, who hit .500 to earn NLCSMVP honors, and Pablo Sandoval, who was at his irrepressible best when theGiants needed him most.

And they did it by refusing to let anyone count them out.

Were a little numb right now, to be honest, with our backsagainst the wall as long as theyve been and to do this, said Giants managerBruce Bochy, after his gang of Gideons blew their horns. This is a specialgroup. They have that never say die attitude. They didnt want to go home,and they found a way to get it done.

These guys just got on track at the right time. Its allabout pitching. It starts on the hill. And I think Zito just sent a sense ofconfidence throughout the staff that we can do this, and they followed eachother.

Bochy will have to figure out a Game 1 starter to oppose theTigers incredible Justin Verlander (can there be any doubt its Zito?) as wellas a designated hitter for Games 3, 4 and 5 of the World Series at Detroit.Those are probably not the questions he had in mind when the Giants arrived inCincinnati two weeks ago, down 0-2 in the series. When Bochy presented the lineupcard to Reds manager Dusty Baker that day, he said something along the linesof, Were embarrassed. We hope we can give you half a game today.

The Giants somehow managed to win a Game 3 in which HomerBailey allowed one hit and struck out 10, and then rattle off two more in aballpark where the Reds hadnt been swept in a three-game series all season.And after losing three of the first four to the Cardinals, the Giants had to doit all over again.

The Cardinals had their own magical ability to cheat death,with six elimination victories over this postseason and last. Yet the hitterswho put together so many smart, hungry and amazing at-bats to erase a 6-0deficit in Washington were never able to land a kill shot against the Giants.

By the end, it was obvious: The Giants had taken aprofessional, polished opponent and gotten into their domes. They found theirweakness an appetite for high fastballs and overfed them like Perigord geese.

Theres adjustments all the time, said Giants catcher BusterPosey, and I just think the pitchers did a great job making thoseadjustments.

Not only did the Giants win the first Game 7 in theirall-time history, but they clinched their first postseason series in front ofthe home fans since the 2002 NLCS also against the Cardinals.

Mike Matheny was the St. Louis catcher who couldnt reachback to tag David Bell as the Giants walked off with the pennant. This time,Matheny was the Cardinals rookie manager delivering the concession speech inthe interview room.

Its about the team thats hot and we got on a coldstreak, Matheny said. We got to this point by being the team thats hot, butwe just couldnt make it happen these last two games. We tip our hats to theGiants. They had all aspects of their game going, and capitalized onopportunities.

Kenny Lofton was the player whose single brought home Bell.On Monday night, Lofton threw the ceremonial first pitch. But unlike thatseries, there were no late lead changes, no late-inning drama. The team that scoredfirst won six of seven games.

And so the Giants didnt merely take possession of the NLpennant by badgering Kyle Lohses flat stuff and hit-me slider in threeinnings. They purse snatched it.

And they didnt just pitch their way through this three-gamegauntlet. They mesmerized the Cardinals so thoroughly that when Matt Cain mademistakes at the belt, he didnt pay for them. An absolutely masterful defensivegame ensured it, with shortstop Brandon Crawfords backpedaling, leaping catchof Lohses line drive in the second inning serving as the cover art for thatalbum.

That, said Cain, was a real, real bad pitch by me.

Crawford knew it was over his head. And if he didnt catchit, he knew two runs would score to put the Cardinals ahead.

"I didnt think I could get it, Crawford said. I couldntreally turn. I just had to go straight up.

Everything slowed down. You feel like youre in the air alittle longer than you probably are.

By the end, after Scutaro raised his NLCS average back to .500and Sandoval barreled up a few more pitches and Hunter Pence hit thefreakiest bases-clearing, broken-bat hit youll ever see, only the finishingtouches remained.

And as a sellout crowd prepared to erupt in celebration, theskies opened up.

Javier Lopez stood on the mound in the ninth, gamely trying to keep theball dry. Infielders stepped out of rapidly forming puddles. At second base,Scutaro tipped back his head, closed his eyes and opened his mouth, in acinematic pose.

It was the cleansing sensation of freedom. Their backs are not against the wall any longer. Now theWorld Series is coming to San Francisco, and the Giants are free to move in anydirection.

The best part was how our fans were cheering it, Pencesaid. They were cheering the downpour.

At shortstop, Crawford, with no kayak at his convenience,wondered how he would ever manage to field a ground ball and throw to firstbase.

It kind of summed up the whole postseason, Crawford said. Itnever rains like that in San Francisco. A little mist, maybe. Theres standingwater all over the place. I didnt know if Id have been able to make a play.

Said Vogelsong, as he watched the Old Testament-quality storm from the relative security of the dugout: Iwas praying, Please, please, let us get a pop up, or a strikeout. Please.

Sergio Romo got Matt Holliday, of all people, to hit one inthe air. Scutaro saw a speck of white through a sky of water.

Please, Ive got to catch this ball, Scutaro told himself.I got kind of lucky. When he hit it, the rain stopped a little bit. A coupleminutes earlier, maybe I dont catch it.

He did, and the Giants drenched themselves outdoors, indoors,and everywhere in between.

Otani to MLB after 2017 season? 'We discussed the possibility'

Otani to MLB after 2017 season? 'We discussed the possibility'

TOKYO -- Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani says he could move to the major leagues after the 2017 season.

The 22-year-old right-hander, who has also put up big numbers at the plate, signed a $2.37 million contract for next season with the Nippon Ham Fighters on Monday.

Otani will not become eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season and will need the Fighters' approval to negotiate with a major league club through the posting system before that time.

He says "we discussed the possibility of me going. ... The club will respect my wishes whenever I decide I want to go."

Otani went 10-4 as a pitcher and batted .322 with a career-high 22 home runs this season for the Fighters.

New rules in MLB's collective bargaining agreement make it more difficult for players like Otani to get paid big bucks right away. But there is a definite curiosity about his abilities, even from those who haven't seen him play much.

"I don't know which side you're worried about more: his ability to pitch or hit," former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Hopefully he stays healthy because he's an addition whatever league he winds up with, whether he stays in Japan or comes to the U.S. he's certainly going to be an exciting player for people to look forward to watching."

Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was reluctant to talk about Otani because he's under contract in Japan. But he's intrigued about Otani's ability to pitch and hit.

"We have reports on him," Dombrowski said. "Do I think a player could be a two-way player? Yeah, it could happen. It is very difficult? Yes. But I'm not saying that there's not a player out there that can't do that because some of them are rare, rare guys. Babe Ruth could do it. He was pretty good. So it can be done."

Report: Giants 'among teams that have asked' about lefty reliever Howell

Report: Giants 'among teams that have asked' about lefty reliever Howell

The Giants added a huge piece to their bullpen Monday by signing closer Mark Melancon to a four-year deal. While much of the bullpen is complete, San Francisco's front office is reportedly keeping an open mind with a familiar reliever. 

San Francisco has reportedly asked about lefty reliever J.P. Howell, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. Howell, who turns 34 in April, spent the last four seasons as a Giants rival with the Dodgers.

Last season coming out of the Dodgers' bullpen, Howell tossed 50.2 innings pitched and ended with a 1-1 record and 4.09 ERA. The year before, Howell posted a career-low 1.43 ERA. 

In just 13 appearances out of the bullpen -- 10.2 innings pitched -- Howell has struggled in his career at AT&T Park. The lefty has a 6.75 ERA in San Francisco, to go along with an 0-1 record. 

As a whole, the Giants' bullpen finished the 2016 regular season with a 25-24 record. The group's 3.65 ERA ranked ninth in the National League. 

Howell is seeking a one-year deal, according to Olney.