The choice for NLCS MVP was never in doubt

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The choice for NLCS MVP was never in doubt

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Marco Scutaro looked up through the pouring rain, caught Matt Holliday's popup for the final out and punched his ticket to the World Series for the first time at age 36.In an NL championship series that saw Scutaro absorb a hard and admitted late slide from Holliday that strained the second baseman's left hip, what a fitting ending.Scutaro tied the NLCS record with 14 hits to earn MVP honors, capping off his remarkable run with three singles and a walk in San Francisco's 9-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night in the decisive Game 7."I was just like praying, Please, you got to catch this ball,'" Scutaro said. "It was kind of tough. I was kind of concerned. The flight of the ball, the rain kind of stopped it a little bit. Another minute, I don't think I would have a chance."After the kind of series he had, Scutaro came through in almost every way possible.He batted .500 with two walks, scored six runs and drove in four. Hideki Matsui (2004 Yankees), Albert Pujols (2004 Cardinals) and Kevin Youkilis (2007 Red Sox) also had 14 hits in an LCS. And Scutaro's 10-game hitting streak ties Cody Ross and Alvin Dark for the longest in Giants postseason history.Starting Wednesday night in San Francisco, he'll have a chance to break that mark when the Giants host the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series."It took him a couple days to adjust to us, but he really has been a leader since he got here," said pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who won Games 2 and 6. "He's played great. He's played great defense. He's a true professional. He knows the game. He does all the little things right. Everything you'd lay out on a table for a guy to do, he does."The Giants acquired the Venezuelan native in July at the trade deadline. It turned out to be one of baseball's best moves, and easily one of its most overlooked.While the rival Dodgers' spending spree made headlines from coast-to-coast, the Giants took on just 2.1 million of Scutaro's salary from Colorado in exchange for minor leaguer Charlie Culberson.All Scutaro has done since is make opponents pay -- and he earned a 75,000 bonus for winning NLCS MVP honors in the process."That's the best thing that's ever happened so far," said Giants ace Matt Cain, who threw 5 2-3 innings of five-hit ball in the clincher. "That's why it's The Blockbuster.'"He had a major impact even before October, batting .339 after the All-Star break to power the Giants' playoff push. Scutaro has delivered in the biggest moments in the postseason, and in many ways, has become the 2012 version of Ross.The Giants plucked Ross off waivers in August two years ago and watched him capture MVP honors in the NLCS against Philadelphia and help lead them to the first World Series title since moving from New York in 1958. And just like in 2010, general manager Brian Sabean's move made the biggest noise at the most key time.Scutaro became just the fifth midseason acquisition to win a postseason MVP award."When we acquired Scutaro, a great job by Brian Sabean, making that blockbuster deal, as we say, that's his nickname," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I knew he was a good player. But to see him day in, day out, you really appreciate the talent that this guy has. I don't know if it was possible for him to raise his game, that's how well he's played, his level. But he did after that slide."Scutaro was hurt on Holliday's slide in the first inning of Game 2. Scutaro got even a few innings later with his own big blow that helped the Giants even the series and end an 0-3 home slide in the postseason when he singled home two runs in San Francisco's four-run fourth inning.Another run scored on the bases-loaded hit when Holliday misplayed the bouncing ball in left field. Scutaro left after the fifth of that 7-1 win because of his damaged hip on a play Bochy felt was illegal.Scutaro never missed a game, and he never stopped played all-out, either.His sliding stops were part of a spectacular defensive effort that backed Barry Zito in San Francisco's 5-0 Game 5 victory. He even threw his arms in the arm running backward after grabbing Pete Kozma's spinning hopper in the fourth inning of Game 7.He also delivered a two-out, two-run double to highlight a four-run second inning of the Game 6 win. And even in the Game 1 loss, Scutaro's single to left leading off the fourth was San Francisco's first hit off 18-game winner Lance Lynn.He had long been a super-sub in four seasons across the bay with the Oakland Athletics from 2004-07, filling in wherever he was needed in the infield -- and, on occasion, as an outfielder.Scutaro, who turns 37 on Oct. 30, played for Mets (2002-03), Toronto (2008-09), Boston (2010-11) and 95 games with Colorado this season.No matter what happens now, he will always be remembered in San Francisco."I kind of thought I had a really good opportunity to make the playoffs with this team," Scutaro said. "We just started playing good, and here we are in the World Series."

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — On a day that started with controversy, Giants players called a meeting following batting practice. Perhaps they were talking about when and where to stretch. Perhaps a reminder was given to keep clubhouse complaints in the actual clubhouse. 

Or, perhaps, the players just decided that enough was enough. 

In a rare display, the Giants put a clean and complete game together. They beat the Rockies 9-2 at AT&T Park, getting just their second win since June 11 and snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Rockies. 

Jeff Samardzija continued his hot streak, the lineup was opportunistic and flashed some power, and the defense sparkled at times. Here are five things to know from the throwback night … 

—- Samardzija walked off to a standing ovation after throwing 112 pitches. He was charged with two earned in 6 1/3 innings. Ignore the record and ERA for a second — his FIP is 3.37 and his xFIP is 2.95. He really is having a very good and underrated season. 

—- Here’s another one for your Samardzija file: Over the past two months, he has 82 strikeouts and three walks. 

—- It was a good day in the race for another Brandon Crawford Gold Glove. Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the few in the National League who even approaches Crawford, was traded to the Rays. Crawford added to the reel by gunning a runner down on third and making a nifty spin-and-throw in the fourth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit. 

—- There are nights where Denard Span looks like a game-changer, and this was one of them. He had a single, walk and triple in his first three plate appearances, scoring twice as the Giants built a 5-0 lead. He was spry in center, too 

—- Nolan Arenado was 0 for 4. Apparently that’s legal now. (It was actually his ninth 0 for 4 or worse against the Giants, in 81 games.)

—- Bonus sixth fact since the Giants won a game: Sam Dyson, acquired basically for free, is the new setup man. That didn’t take long, and it probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Dyson gave up a single but struck out the other three batters he faced.