The Giants win the pennant

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The Giants win the pennant

UPDATE: (8:55) Marco Scutaro has been named MVP of the NLCS after batting .500 (14-for-28)

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO On the day he dropped his red Phillies duffel bag in the Giants clubhouse, Hunter Pence raised an extra large coffee mug and made a declaration.

Ive got to be honest, he said on Aug. 1. Every now and then, I do things you dont see very often.

When youre bucking all conventional wisdom, a little unorthodoxy is just what you need.

The Giants had to strike down the Cincinnati Reds three times to advance past the NL Division Series. They needed to take three more from the St. Louis Cardinals to claim a National League pennant.

Normal teams do not pull this off. The Giants are not normal. And they could not be deep-sixed.

They survived a half-dozen kill shots, and after a Game 7 replete with fantastic defense and a fluky, not-often-seen, triple-contact hit off Pences splintered bat, the Giants are taking their survival school to the World Series.

Matt Cain let his defense spin his pitches into outs, Marco Scutaro kept on raining hits and the Giants dismantled the Cardinals 9-0 Monday night to claim the 20th National League pennant in franchise history.

It was a surreal scene in the ninth inning, as the skies opened up and drenched the ballpark.

The Giants and the 1985 Kansas City Royals are the only teams in major league history to win six elimination games in a single postseason.

The Giants clinched a postseason series at home for the first time since the 2002 NLCS, also against the Cardinals. That one was done in five games, though. This was Game 7 and the Giants hadnt won one of those in their 130-year history. This was just the second Game 7 to be held in the San Francisco city limits, and the first since the 1962 World Series.

That was many yesterdays ago. For these Giants, its been a rallying cry to make it till tomorrow.

Their next tomorrow will be Game 1 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers, on Wednesday at AT&T Park.

Starting pitching report
Cain was far from perfect. His fastball rode up in the zone. He relied on his defense to make plays. He survived a choppy, 46-pitch sea before he could tie his boat to the dock after two innings.

But Cain kept daring the Cardinals to beat him, and they never could.

Before this season, no Giants pitcher in the franchises 129-year history had ever won Game 7 of a postseason series. No Giant had ever pitched a perfect game, either.

Cain has done both.

He held the Cardinals scoreless through 5 23 innings, and while they made enough loud contact to jangle nerves, the big ballpark and a surehanded defense allowed Cain to keep advancing toward 27 outs.

The Cards threatened in the second inning, when Yadier Molina hit a leadoff single and David Freese walked. But first baseman Brandon Belt smothered Daniel Descalsos short-hop smash and threw from his knees for a forceout at second base. Then after Pete Kozma struck out, pitcher Kyle Lohse hit a line drive that shortstop Brandon Crawford snared with a backpedaling, leaping catch.

Left fielder Gregor Blanco made two terrific plays to help Cain escape the third without giving up a run. First, Blanco cut off Jon Jays hit near the bullpen mounds to hold the Cardinals leadoff hitter to a single. Then Blanco got an excellent jump to catch Allen Craigs drive to the gap.

Scutaro contributed a couple of clean picks on short-hops, too.

The Cardinals started just one more rally against Cain, and that was of his own making. It probably wasnt an accident when, leading 7-0, Cains 0-2 fastball plunked Matt Holliday on the arm to start the sixth inning. The Cardinals bull-strong left fielder was owed a little something after his controversial slide wiped out Scutaro at second base in Game 2.

Belt made a reaction catch of Craigs line drive, and after Molina singled, Cain struck out Freese to end his night. Too superstitious to tip his cap, Cain walked off the mound to a standing ovation after 102 pitches.

Bullpen report
Jeremy Affeldt retired Descalso on a pop up to strand both of Cains runners, then he pitched around a walk in a scoreless seventh inning. Affeldt is unscored upon in eight appearances this postseason and owns a 1.53 ERA in 20 career playoff games.

Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez subdued the Cardinals in the eighth, then Lopez allowed two of his four batters to reach in the ninth. Under a downpour, manager Bruce Bochy went to Sergio Romo to face Holliday and four pitches later, Scutaro saw a pop fly through the raindrops, punched the air with his fist and the Giants celebrated their second trip to the World Series in three years.

At the plate
Several Giants remarked that they let Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse off the hook in Game 3, when they collected 12 baserunners but just one run in his 5 23 innings. They vowed that they wouldnt let that happen again.

They were right.

Lohse had tame stuff and a hit-me slider, and the Giants acted like lunchroom bullies to put him under constant duress. They scored a run in the first inning when Angel Pagan singled, took third on Scutaros classic hit-and-run single a 2-1 slider to right field -- and scored on Pablo Sandovals RBI ground out that Lohse fielded on the first base side of the mound.

The bottom of the lineup didnt make it easy on Lohse in the second inning, either. Gregor Blanco hit a one-out single and Cain proved no slouch with two outs, barreling up a slider for a hard single up the middle that sent Blanco diving across the plate. It was the third consecutive game that a Giants pitcher collected an RBI, combined with Ryan Vogelsongs butcher-boy grounder and Barry Zitos sneak attack bunt.

Lohse and the Cardinals suffered a system collapse in the third inning, as the Giants sent 11 men to the plate and scored five runs. Scutaro started yet another rally, whistling a single to increase his NLCS average to .500. Sandoval, who has been on most every pitch in this series, followed by taking an outside pitch down the left field line for a double. Sandoval raised his arms in something that resembled an NFL sack dance as he stood on second base. Buster Posey didnt bite on a 3-2 pitch, drawing a walk to load the bases and send Cardinals manager Mike Matheny out to give Lohse the hook.

But Matheny didnt go to Trevor Rosenthal, his TNT-throwing right-hander. He turned to Joe Kelly instead, and thats when things got weird.

Kellys first pitch, a 95 mph fastball, splintered Pences bat halfway up the handle. That was the first impact. His loosened barrel traveled through the zone faster than the ball. That was the second impact. And because the ball needed a bit more coaxing, hide and wood kissed one more time.

A pool-hall shark couldnt have created more english on the ball. It shot in an unexpected direction past Kozma, who broke the wrong way toward third base as two runs scored. When center fielder Jon Jay dropped the ball, third base coach Tim Flannery aggressively sent Posey, who scored from first base without a play.

It was one of the flukiest hits youll ever see, and all of the sudden, every physical law favored the Giants. They led 5-0, and the Cardinals reactor shield continued to superheat from there.

Belt chopped a single off Kellys bare hand, Blanco walked to load the bases and Kozma, now fully on tilt, tried to throw for the force at home after picking up Crawfords grounder. He might have had a chance if the Cardinals had pulled in their infielders, but Matheny had them at double-play depth. Kozmas throw was hopelessly late as Pence scored, then descended the dugout steps to a raucous reception.

The Giants completed their rally when Pagan beat out a double-play grounder, allowing Belt to score and make it a 7-0 lead. It would have been even worse for the Cardinals if first baseman Allen Craig hadnt stopped Sandovals line drive with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Rosenthal struck out the side when he finally appeared in the sixth inning, but the Giants didnt mail in any at-bats against the Cardinals bullpen. Belt licked some icing when he turned on a 98 mph fastball down and in from Mitchell Boggs, clearing it over the steam cannons for a solo home run in the eighth.

Scutaro was 3 for 4 to finish 14 for 28 in the series -- breaking Will Clark's franchise record for the most hits in an NLCS.

In field
The Tigers have been trying to keep sharp by scrimmaging against a team of prospects culled from instructional league. It only seemed like the Cardinals were filling that role against the Giants

While the Cardinals broke down, the Giants held firm. Scutaro, Belt and Crawford each tamped down rallies with huge plays.

Attendance
The Giants announced 43,056 paid to see just the second Game 7 in San Francisco and the first since the deciding game of the 1962 World Series. This time, Bobby Richardson did not play a role. And somewhere, Charlie Brown and Linus are smiling.

Up next
By virtue of the National Leagues victory in the All-Star Game (oh, and thanks, Melky!) the Giants will play host to Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday at AT&T Park. The Detroit Tigers are expected to send right-hander Justin Verlander to the mound, likely against left-hander Barry Zito. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. PDT.

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Practically speaking, the 50th loss is no different than the one before or the one after, but this sport is built on milestones, and this one came quickly.

The Giants lost their 50th game on August 12 last year. This season, it was clinched when Ryder Jones grounded out in his fourth career at-bat, handing the Mets a 5-2 win on June 24. 

Bruce Bochy called losing 50 of your first 77 games "hard to believe" and "embarrassing." Johnny Cueto, who went seven strong, said the reality was "hard and sad." Brandon Belt, who got Cueto off the hook for a loss, agreed with his manager.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have," Belt said. "When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around."

Lately, that has meant changes to the roster. It is officially audition season, and in that respect, it was not a particularly inspiring day for the bullpen. The Giants felt they would have a better mix this year, but it hasn't played out. Instead, they're once again trying to find pieces for the next successful Giants bullpen.

With Hunter Strickland suspended and Derek Law in the minors, two young relievers, a middle-innings stalwart, and a newcomer pitched the final two frames. They gave up four runs.

Sam Dyson was the first on the mound in the eighth. Belt had homered a few minutes earlier, tying a good starter's duel. Dyson gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked Asdrubal Cabrera before throwing two good sliders past Yoenis Cespedes for the strikeout. With two lefties coming up and the go-ahead run still on third, Bochy turned to Steven Okert. He immediately gave up a seeing-eye RBI single to Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores doubled off George Kontos later in the frame to make it 3-1. 

In the ninth, Kyle Crick showed some of the wildness that kept him in the minors for seven years. He, too, gave up a leadoff triple, a sin you always pay for. A walk helped put another run into scoring position and a wild pitch extended the Mets’ lead to four. 

Before the game, Bochy talked of getting an extended look at Jones. He was 0-for-4 in his first big league game but he’ll be back out there tomorrow. It’s time to fight for a job, and the same holds true of some relievers who didn’t fare well Saturday. It is a group with a closer locked into a longterm deal and little else decided. 

Are Strickland or Law eighth-inning guys? Will Dyson be a worthwhile reclamation project? Will Kontos be back, and will he carve out a different role? Are Okert and Josh Osich capable of giving Bochy lefties he trusts? Is Crick’s improvement in Triple-A a sign of things to come? There are many questions to be answered over the next three months. 

“This is a good time for them, this is what players get up here for, to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “Because of our situation, we’re going to take a look at these guys and we know there are going to be growing pains.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The promotion of an intriguing prospect can bring a certain buzz to the ballpark. It didn’t last long. 

The debut of Ryder Jones came in the latest flat performance from the Giants, who collapsed late and fell 5-2 to the Mets. The loss was their 50th of the season. They did not lose their 50th game last season until August 12. 

With the score tied in the eighth, Curtis Granderson crushed a leadoff triple into the alley. Sam Dyson walked the next batter and then whiffed Yoenis Cespedes, but Jay Bruce greeted Steven Okert with an RBI single to right. It kept going poorly from there. 

Here are five things to know from a cool day by the water … 

—- Jones grounded out to second in his first at-bat and then flied out to center, grounded out to first, and grounded out to second. He had one chance in the field, starting a double play that ended the second inning.  

—- Johnny Cueto seems to have turned a corner. Over his past two starts, he has allowed just three earned runs over 14 innings. Whether they trade him or not, the Giants certainly could use a nice little hot streak for the next six weeks. 

—- A few seconds after Bruce Bochy shook Cueto’s hand, Brandon Belt got him off the hook for a loss. He hit the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh into the seats in left-center, tying the game. The homer was Belt’s 14th. He’s on pace for 29. 

—- The Mets got eight one-run innings out of Jacob deGrom, who is quietly the most reliable of a star-studded rotation. He struck out seven and gave up just four hits. 

—- If Madison Bumgarner wants another Silver Slugger Award, he’ll have to chase down deGrom, who hit a homer in his last start. His single in the third was his 10th hit, and he finished the day with a .294 average.