Giants soak up their first Game 7 win in franchise history

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Giants soak up their first Game 7 win in franchise history

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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.

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

SAN FRANCISCO — The momentum generated by Christian Arroyo and Michael Morse late Wednesday night lasted just a few hours. By the end of this four-game series, the Giants were left with a harsh reality: Even with two injections of new blood, they are not hitting. 

Arroyo drove in another run Thursday, but that was it for a lineup that couldn’t support Matt Moore’s effort. The bullpen, which had kept Bruce Bochy’s guys in close games all series, finally broke in the 10th. The Dodgers walked away with a 5-1 win and a split of a series that was rather uninspiring for both sides. 

After scoring 10 runs on the last road trip, the Giants scored just eight during the four games against the Dodgers. Three of those RBI came from Arroyo, called up Monday. A fourth came from Morse, called up Wednesday.

“We’ve got to get this offense going,” Bochy said. “It’s a better offense than what we’re doing right now. You need to find a way to put a few runs on the board. We had our chances, we just couldn’t find ways to get the big hit.”

With Denard Span out for at least another week, Bochy moved Hunter Pence to the top of the lineup. His temporary No. 3 hitter against lefties, Eduardo Nuñez, has one hit in his last 20 at-bats. Buster Posey, the cleanup hitter, is batting .357, but he has driven in just three runs this month. With two on and one out in the eighth, he bounced into a double play. The production closer to the bottom of the order has been nonexistent, leading to constant shuffling that has moved Nuñez and Belt to left at times. Bochy said the staff will continue to search of a lineup that works. 

“You talk about it and do thing to adjust, and it will get better, but right now we’ve got some guys who aren’t swinging the bat well, to be honest,” he said. “You look at the order and we don’t have a lot of guys swinging well.”

The list does not include Arroyo, the rookie who will eventually have to deal with adjustments from pitchers. It doesn’t appear that’ll be a problem. Arroyo has been making adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. He did so against Sergio Romo for his first career homer and said he learned about the depth of Julio Urias’ curveball during their first two battles Thursday. In the sixth, the 21-year-old Arroyo drove in the game-tying run against the 20-year-old Urias. The lefty had walked Posey to face Arroyo, who singled up the middle. 

“He handles himself so well,” Bochy said. “They walked Buster and he smokes the ball. This kid has shown he’s not in awe. The upper deck, the bright lights, he comes to play.”

Arroyo’s effort briefly backed Moore, who was sharp in seven innings. Moore struck out eight, six of them looking, but he didn’t get much help and the bullpen fell apart in the 10th with a series of walks.

Bochy challenged his starters on Saturday at Coors Field and they responded with a strong series back home. The bullpen was tested during the first week but — Thursday’s result aside — it has settled down. The Giants are not as worried about their pitching as they were as they flew back from Denver. They know, however, that this team is going nowhere if two runs per game continues to be the nightly output. 

“We’ll tweak it again,” Bochy said of his lineup. “We'll see if we can get this thing right.”

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Quietly over the past couple of weeks, Bruce Bochy’s bullpen had started to settle. Bochy praised the group before Thursday’s game, noting that roles were being defined by pitchers who entered the series finale with the Dodgers with a 0.94 collective ERA this season. That changed in the 10th inning Thursday.

Three relievers combined to give up four runs on four walks and three singles. The implosion ended with a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers and a split of this four-game series. 

For most of the game, this was a day when youth shined. Corey Seager celebrated his 23rd birthday with a solo homer in the first on a two-strike pitch from Matt Moore that caught the heart of the plate. The Giants will be dealing with Seager for years, and if all goes according to plan, there will be years of Julio Urias vs. Christian Arroyo battles, too. 

The 21-year-old third baseman won the first matchup, lining a single to center. Arroyo flew out in his second at-bat against the 20-year-old Urias, but they faced off a third time in a big spot. Brandon Belt drew a one-out walk in the sixth and went to third when a pickoff throw skipped down the line. After an intentional walk of Buster Posey, Arroyo lined another one back up the middle. Urias stuck his glove up but it ticked off and into center for a game-tying single. 

Arroyo ended the young lefty’s day. Moore was done after seven sparkling innings. He struck out eight, six of them looking. 

The game went to extras, and Cory Gearrin walked pinch-hitter Adrian Gonzalez to lead off the 10th. Chase Utley was called up to bunt but he couldn’t get it down. Instead, he hit an infield single off Steven Okert that stayed true to the third-base line. After a walk of Yasmani Grandal, the third straight pinch-hitter, Andrew Toles lined a single to center to give the Dodgers a lead and the wheels soon came off. 

Utley alertly tagged up and scored on a pop-up to foul territory. Justin Turner’s single extended the lead to three and Hunter Strickland’s four-pitch walk of Chris Taylor pushed another across. 

Starting pitching report: Moore gave up 19 hits and 11 earned runs in his two previous starts, but the Dodgers had just two hits, the Seager homer and a Chris Taylor single. Taylor reached third with one out, but Moore got Scott Van Slyke and Cody Bellinger to go down looking. 

Bullpen report: Mark Melancon came on in a non-save situation for a second straight day and pitched a scoreless ninth. 

At the plate: Buster Posey’s hitting streak ended at 12 games. He twice bounced into double plays.

In the field: Posey chased a high pop-up down the right field line in the fourth, but he was going to come up short. Kelby Tomlinson came out of nowhere with the helping hand, making a running catch near the visiting bullpen. Posey smiled and shook his head as Tomlinson whipped the ball back to the infield. 

Attendance: The Giants said they sold out a 500th consecutive game.

Up next: The Giants have a three-city road trip coming up, so it’s time to take advantage of a weekend at home against the Padres. Jeff Samardzija and Luis Perdomo get the opener.