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.

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

SAN FRANCISCO — After the final out Monday night, a round table was carried into the corner of the home clubhouse at AT&T Park and surrounded by chairs. Eleven players were sitting, eating, drinking and laughing as Chris Stratton prepared to address the media. 

It was a rare sight for the Giants these days, a very rare sight. But then, so was Monday’s result. Stratton led the way in a 2-0 win over the Brewers that was the first home shutout of the season and motivated the joyous post-game scene. 

The shutout was just the second of the season for the staff. Ty Blach went the distance in the other one and Stratton, a fellow rookie, did the heavy lifting Monday, throwing six strong innings before giving way to the bullpen. Matt Cain pitched the seventh, Mark Melancon pitched the eighth while going back-to-back for the first time in three months, and Sam Dyson closed it out quickly. 

There’s a chance that Stratton joins that group in a few days. Johnny Cueto is scheduled to make a rehab start on Tuesday night in Sacramento and that could put him on track to return to the rotation a turn later. That would line up with Stratton’s next start, but Bruce Bochy wasn’t ready to kick the young righty out of the rotation, not after back-to-back scoreless starts against two of the better lineups in the league. A few days after striking out 10 Washington Nationals, Stratton cut through the Brewers. He has 12 2/3 scoreless innings over his past two appearances. 

“For how we’re using him, he’s really handled it well,” Bochy said. “We skipped him, moved him back three or four days, but he doesn’t let it faze him. This is an important time for these young players coming up, whether it’s (Ryder) Jones or (Jarrett) Parker or Stratton. They’re trying to show they belong in the Major Leagues.

“You’re hoping these guys show they’re ready to play here and we don’t have to do something else because we can do it internally.”

Bochy said he could use a six-man rotation when Cueto returns, or a starter could be skipped. That will all sort itself, but the manager made one thing clear. 

“We’d like to pitch him as much as we can,” Bochy said of Stratton.

That’s the same thing Bochy used to say of another right-hander, one he compared Stratton to before Monday’s game. Bochy was asked about Yusmeiro Petit, and he smiled and fondly stated, “He was so good. So good.” The Giants see some Petit in Stratton. He is unaffected by long layoffs and he’s capable of starting, relieving, or even pumping his fastball up a couple ticks for short outings. 

Petit was a mainstay in San Francisco for years, a key cog in a championship team. Bochy has been looking for that piece since Petit departed in free agency, and Stratton seems like he might be suited for the role. He will want more, of course, because all pitchers do. The Giants will give him five more weeks here to try and earn that. 

For the moment, Stratton’s focus is elsewhere. He turns 27 on Monday and the celebration started early. As Stratton answered questions, veterans at the table heckled him about striking out just one Brewer. 

“I left all the strikeouts in Washington, I guess,” Stratton said. 

Nick Hundley walked up with a TV remote and held it up between the cameras. 

“What was your thought on the punchout?” he asked. 

“I’m glad he swung,” Stratton said, smiling. “It was a ball.”

“Did you think about getting any more?” Hundley asked. 

With that, he smiled and ducked back behind the cameras to return to the celebration in the corner. A few minutes later, Stratton joined him.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017


SAN FRANCISCO — Ty Blach has been a bright spot in this losing season, giving the Giants a young, cost-controlled lefty who can potentially fill a huge role next season. Chris Stratton is trying to do the same thing from the right side. 

The 26-year-old continued his August surge, throwing six dominant innings against the Brewers in a 2-0 win that was the staff's first shutout at AT&T Park this season. 

It was the kind of night that's been so familiar over the years. The Giants had six home shutouts last season. Here are five things to know from this year's first ... 

—- The Brewers are first in the league in homers and the Nationals are third, so Stratton had his work cut out for him the last two times out. His results: 12 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts. That’s quite the statement. Stratton’s scoreless streak is the longest by a Giants rookie starter since Chris Heston threw 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in July of 2015. 

—- Matt Cain was used as a short reliever to protect a two-run lead in the seventh. He had a 1-2-3 inning that ended with a strikeout. 

—- Mark Melancon pitched back-to-back games for the first time since May 19-20. He struck out Neil Walker and Ryan Braun in a perfect inning. 

—- Jarrett Parker reached base his first three times up. He’s hitting .385 at home this season but he’s just 4-for-35 (.114) on the road. Weird splits for a Giant slugger. 

—- Brandon Crawford is finally finding some traction. His double in the fourth was the big hit in a two-run frame that gave Stratton a lead to work with. Crawford is 7-for-17 on the home stand with three extra-base hits and four RBI.