These World Series champion Giants weren't lucky -- just good

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These World Series champion Giants weren't lucky -- just good

DETROIT The first one was a function of time and place.

It was serendipity. It was the race car assembled from junkedparts, all pixie dust and charged particles, and a why not arrogance from afrat-house group of players who mixed toughness with tenacious pitching to crash a World Series gala.

This was different Sunday night. The Giants secondchampionship in three years, which they clinched in a 4-3, 10-inning victoryat Comerica Park that finished a four-game sweep over the Detroit Tigers, was not ad-libbed.

This was by design.

BAGGS' INSTANT REPLAY: Giants are World Series champions

This was a team that featuredsmooth infield defense and swooping birds in the outfield, a team that tradedhome run trots for frenetic doubles and triples, a team of tough,contact-oriented hitters who stayed in the middle of the field with two outsand got the runner home from third base with less than that, a bullpen that refused to be broken and a talented rotation that shuffled itself from the discard pile and came up aces when it mattered most.

This was the team that GM Brian Sabean always talked aboutcreating during all those years in the Barry Bonds era, and the roughtransition that followed. This was the team he craved: one that was younger, more athletic,ran the bases with aplomb, created their own breaks and didnt give away extraouts.

And hey, it didnt hurt to have Buster Posey back, either.

Just two years after winning the first World Series in theGiants five-plus decades in San Francisco, theyve done it again. And there isa feeling this time that they werent lucky.

They were just that good.

I didnt have to wait 50 years for the next one! saidclubhouse manager Mike Murphy, beaming as he shuffled through a raucouscelebration holding a half-dozen drained champagne bottles under his arms.

Theres going to be another parade down Market St. onWednesday, and do you remember the signature moment from the million-fan marchin 2010? It was Posey, the fresh-faced rookie, interrupting the revelry with amoment of stone-cold sobriety. He slapped the podium and rattled the microphonein front of City Hall, saying, Lets do this again next year.

The Giants did not defend their title in 2011. Their follow-upseason got taken out at the legs when Posey went down in that vicious homeplate collision with the Florida Marlins Scott Cousins.

But it was apparent just a few weeks into this spring trainingthat Posey could bear all the weight the Giants needed of him. He has a battingtitle and and should clear a spot for an NL MVP trophy in a couple weeks, too.

And hell get a second ring.

Well, we thought that time and place could be last year,too, and it went up in smoke, Giants GM Brian Sabean said. Maybe that makeswinning this year sweeter after the fact. You know, its like life. Its fastand slow at the same time.

And I tell you what, nobodys talking about how Buster putdown all the right signs. Hes an offensive player and a batting champion andthe MVP, but for this young man to do what hes done as a catcher is justamazing. Hes the rare offensive catcher who has a flair for the dramatic thatyou just dont see.

Posey even showed a spark of emotion after his two-run homerun gave the Giants a momentary, 3-2 lead in the sixth inning. He raised anindex finger through the drizzle and admitted he got so caught up in the momentthat he nearly missed first base.

I found it in time, said Posey, who had a knack for doingthat all season.

These Giants did everything right on time, and theirmidseason additions Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence did more than blend intothe fabric of the team. They became vocal leaders and firebrand speakers whoset a professional tone.

There was no better statement for what made this team successful than the manner in which they scored the series-winning run in the 10th inning. Unlikely DH Ryan Theriot, who had lost his second base job in August, punched a single. And the man who took it, Scutaro, flared a single to right-center field to send his teammate sliding across the plate amid a thick dust cloud.

"That's about perfect, the way it happened, isn't it?" Theriot said.

The terms teamwork and team play and play as a teamare used loosely, but these guys truly did, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.They set aside their own agenda and asked whats best for the club. We putguys in different roles and nobody said a word, complained or anything, andthats the only way its going to get done. It shows the character in thatclubhouse and how they kept fighting, saying, hey, were not going home.

Bochy looked as if the blood drained from his head when toldhe became the first Giants manager to win two World Series titles since JohnMcGraw, back in 1905 and 1921-22.

Nawww, Bochy said, pausing an instant as a wave of emotionhit him.

Then he snapped back into wry form.

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Cmon, he said, suddenly breaking into a grin. Pick itup, John!

So many observers saw Bochy as a retread hire when Sabeanhired him to replace Felipe Alou prior to the 2007 season, when the final scorewas a sideshow and all eyes were following Barry Bonds and a home run recordnobody east of Manteca wanted him to break.

Sabean did not feel that way about Bochy six years ago. And now, he looks back and recognizes the moment: Hiring him away from the unappreciative San Diego Padreswas the best decision hes made in his 16-year tenure.

Hes a Hall of Fame manager, enough said, Sabean said.Understated, maybe. Undervalued, definitely. You look now at what hes done,and this is a just, just reward for someone who is a lifelong baseball name anda great person.

Bochy and Sabean shared a vision for what a winning teamneeded to look like to thrive in their unique waterfront park, and within theirdivision. It took hitters who could adapt and make use of the gaps, and refrainfrom throwing up their arms when the wind through the archways knocked downdrives to right field or 400-foot outs settled into gloves on the warning trackin center.

The Giants hit the fewest home runs in the major leaguesthis season, a function of the meager 31 they managed in 81 home games. But unlike past teams, this one usedthe park as an advantage, not an excuse that lodged in their brains. And theyran down all of their opponents deep drives, too.

Getting Blanco, Pagan and Pence, they cover so much groundin the outfield, Bochy said. When pitching is your strength, you want a gooddefense. That shows up every day. Hitting comes and goes. But as long as youstay in more games, you have a better chance of winning them, and thats how weplay.

This roster, this playoff run it was a coordinated effort,wasnt it?

I guess, said right-hander Matt Cain, as champagne drippedfrom his ski goggles. If coordinated means getting down 2-0 and 3-1 in thefirst two series.

Ah yes. The first two series. Six games that could have ended their season. Six fiery hoops they flung themselves through to reach the World Series.

Not only did the Giants need to win all three games inCincinnati to get past the NL Division Series, but they faced a Game 3 starter,Homer Bailey, who held them to one hit and struck out 10.

Yet they managed to win that game 2-1 in 10 innings only becauseRyan Vogelsong absolutely refused to let them lose as long as he was on themound, and because Reds third baseman Scott Rolen, an eight-time Gold Gloveaward winner, made an error that led to the tiebreaking run.

OK, maybe there was a dash of serendipity in this run after all.

But mostly, those survival rounds were about their startingpitchers, who had tripped so many silent alarms with the way they struggleddown the stretch. As it turned out, Vogelsong morphed into the best postseason pitcher sinceOrel Hershiser, Barry Zito pitched the game of his life in St. Louis to bring theNLCS back to AT&T Park for the final two games, Cain started and won a pairof winner-take-all affairs and even sleepy-armed Madison Bumgarner recovered from a banishmentto spin seven shutout innings of two-hit ball in Game 2 against the Tigers.

Each of the pitchers had their hero turn. Each had theirmoment of inspiration when they grabbed their teammates and pushed them out of thepath of an oncoming train. They survived because none of them got their footcaught in the rails.

The Giants won their last seven games. They didnt have aseven-game winning streak once during the regular season.

And they have won a stunning eight of nine games over theirlast two World Series, shutting down offensive stars like Josh Hamilton (2 for21 two seasons ago) and Prince Fielder (1 for 14 this year). Its a credit to theirpitchers for executing the game plan, their catcher, Posey, for fashioning itand their advance scouts for providing the information on which to base it all.

This is something were very proud of, said Sabean,crediting Steve Balboni and Keith Champion, with another nod to scout andformer catcher Brian Johnson, who lives in the Detroit area and saw the Tigersat least 60 times this season.

We put a premium on it. These are two very good teams wevebeaten, Texas and Detroit, and weve only lost one game. So the advance reportshave to be good. But you have to execute, too.

"Pitching isgoing to be our celebrity, and that mantra isnt going to change. Its not theall-eggs-in-one-basket with one player approach. This is conducive to ourballpark and our division.

Said Posey: I think its quality pitchers making qualitypitches, Posey said. Its as simple as that.

Tim Lincecum had to remind himself that he was a qualitypitcher, too. After a season of personal misery, he accepted a bullpen role anddid more than go through the motions. He established himself as a prime weapon,giving up just one run on three hits while striking out 17 in 13 reliefinnings.

He hardened up one of the teams soft spots, as everyone inthe bullpen had to pitch an inning later to make up for the loss of BrianWilson in April.

The toughest part about replacing Wilson? Finding someonewith the stones to throw that final pitch in the ninth inning.

They discovered they had someone with a heart big enough forthe job in Sergio Romo, a former slider specialist who only faced right-handersbecause his elbow was too tender, his durability was an issue and he didnthave the stuff to get lefties out.

RELATED: Romo, bullpen mates rise to the challenge

But Romo worked and worked on his two-seam fastball. Andwith the Giants one out away from mobbing the field Sunday night, Romo did not recoil whenhe had to go through Miguel Cabrera the first hitter in 45 years to win aTriple Crown.

Romo got ahead with sliders. Posey called for another withtwo strikes.

Romo shook to the fastball, Posey said. He gets all thecredit on that. Its extremely gutsy. It just shows the makeup he has. Theresno fear out there.

Posey didnt give any thought to a mound visit.

No because he has a feel for the situation and whats goingon, Posey said. Its not something you can learn. Its just something youhave.

Said Bochy: That at-bat, he just knew that Cabrera waslooking for a slider, and he commands his fastball so well and he located it.Its just amazing the job hes done in these situations weve put him in. Wehad the right guy and I couldnt be prouder of Sergio, how hes emerged as sucha great closer.

A Triple Crown winner flinched as the 88-mph pitch droppedunderneath his hands, plate umpire Brian ONora pumped his arm and Romo dancedinto Poseys arms as the Giants leapt into the 43-degree night and found somuch comfort in their own company.

Two years ago, they were the Band of Misfits. Now they are simplyBanded Together.

Ive never been around a team that bonded the way this onedid, said Vogelsong, who spent so much emotion on the mound.

World Series champions? Yeah, I like the sound of that.Its too new. I cant call it anything but a dream come true, and I know thatsa clich that people say. But thats what it is. This is the moment Ive alwaysdreamed of.

And how does it feel?

Better than I ever could have thought, just because of thepeople on this team, he said. We are a family in here. These players go outthere for whats on the front of their shirts and not on the back. Its aboutthe Giants.

We did this as Giants.

They inspired themselves to survive, as Pence often put it, just so they could spend tomorrow with each other.

What does tomorrow hold now?

Go back to San Francisco, prepare for the parade, saidPence, his eyes wide, and celebrate!

Giants notes: Marrero hopes to be back; Posey faces Romo

Giants notes: Marrero hopes to be back; Posey faces Romo

SAN FRANCISCO — About 45 minutes after the Giants announced that Chris Marrero had been designated for assignment, the left fielder walked up to the locker of one of the newcomers. Marrero patted Christian Arroyo on the back and shook his hand, congratulating him for his first call-up to the big leagues. 

“That’s my boy,” he said later. “I was really happy for him.”

The Arroyo promotion and the addition of Drew Stubbs signaled the end of Marrero’s April run in the lineup. He was cut and Aaron Hill was put on the disabled list, clearing two roster spots. Just as Arroyo forced his way up with three huge weeks in Triple-A, Marrero forced his way onto the opening day roster with a monster spring that included eight homers. He had just five hits in 38 at-bats before Monday’s moves.

“The team is struggling and we’ve got to make some moves,” Marrero said. “I believe in myself and I’ll go down and get back to how I felt in spring training. This is what I’ve worked for my whole life. I lost the feel that I had in the spring. Things were a little rushed. I came in and worked hard every day to try and find it. I’m going to keep working. I haven’t lost confidence in myself.”

Marrero was put in a bit of a tough spot. He played just about every day in Scottsdale because he was trying to win a job, and when he finally did make it, some Giants coaches felt he was a bit worn down. The team’s brutal start to the season put a glaring spotlight on left field, and this move became obvious over time.

Marrero said he likes it here, and that if he isn’t claimed, he will go to Triple-A Sacramento and try to find that spring swing and get back up here. Count Bruce Bochy among those hoping it goes down that way. 

“We thought a lot of him and still do,” Bochy said. “He’s a good hitter.”

--- Arroyo had a 4.4 GPA in high school, so the Giants knew he was smart. He’s savvy, too. There’s nothing like picking up the longest-tenured player on the team, literally. After snagging a ricochet in the fourth inning last night, Arroyo kept running and lifted Cain off the grass. They then chest-bumped. 

“That just kind of happened,” Arroyo said. “He hit it, I looked at Cain going down and saw the ball, went running and got it, instincts took over. I made a throw and got the guy. It was a fun play. In that moment, I was just pumped up. It’s one of those plays you get excited over.”

Arroyo said he heard Cain yelling and he thought he was hurt, so that’s why he ran over. Cain did have an X-ray on the foot that got hit but it came back negative. 

“Christian did a great job handling himself,” Cain said. “He picked me up big-time.”

The best part of the play came hours after it was made. As Cain talked to reporters, Brandon Crawford — who was in position to scoop the grounder in the fourth — was standing at his locker, a few feet away.

“Let it go through next time,” he said softly.

--- Denard Span was out on the field Monday afternoon, but he’ll miss another two to four days with that right shoulder injury. This will truly be a day-to-day situation. If at any point the Giants feel they need coverage, Span can be put on the 10-day DL. 

--- Hill apparently felt discomfort after playing long toss on the road trip. He can swing a bat but he was going to be kept from throwing for three to four days, so he was put on the DL.

--- This spring, Posey was asked about facing Sergio Romo. Here was his long tendencies-filled answer. Posey faced Romo in the eighth and flied out. 

"It was a little weird, I'm not going to lie," he said. "I caught him for so long. It's definitely interesting being in the batter's box instead of being the plate."

Was there a nod or "hey what's up" look between the two?

"I've caught him long enough to know you don't look at him," Posey said, smiling. 

--- If you missed it, the standing ovation for Romo was a very, very cool moment. Also, here's my story on Madison Bumgarner, who spoke for the first time since his injury. And here's the first story on Arroyo, with a fun anecdote about his mom. She'll be in the stands Tuesday. And finally, my game story from last night. 

On night Giants turn to youth, Matt Cain turns back the clock

On night Giants turn to youth, Matt Cain turns back the clock

SAN FRANCISCO — In the second inning Tuesday, as Christian Arroyo strapped on his gear and grabbed his bat, Buster Posey looked over at Matt Cain. 

“Goodness,” he said. “He looks really young.”

There was a time when that was said about Cain, now 32, and Posey, now 30. They broke in as fresh-faced kids, too, but these days they’re the grizzled vets, anchors of a clubhouse that got some fresh blood on Monday. Arroyo brought the energy to AT&T Park and Cain and Posey did the rest. 

The starter, in the midst of a surprising resurgence, threw six dominant innings against the visiting Dodgers. Posey threw one runner out at second to end the eighth and back-picked Justin Turner at second with two down in the ninth, clinching a 2-1 win that felt like a must-have in the clubhouse. 

“I mean, we needed it,” Posey said. “I don’t think you can underscore it. We definitely needed it.”

The front office sensed that after a sweep at Coors Field. After weeks of saying the Giants had to be patient with Arroyo, Bobby Evans pulled the trigger Monday morning. Drew Stubbs was also added to temporarily take over in center. The message was clear: A sense of urgency was needed throughout the organization, and the players responded with perhaps their cleanest game of the year. 

Cain did the heavy lifting, allowing just two hits and a walk before his right hamstring bit. He was pulled while warming up in the seventh, but he’s optimistic. Cain missed two weeks last year with the same injury, but he said it’s not as bad this time around. 

“Last year it was something that was definitely more on my mind when I did it,” he said. “I pushed too hard. I thought we were being a lot smarter today.”

The bullpen backed Cain, with Steven Okert, George Kontos, Derek Law (who allowed a run but shut down further damage) and Mark Melancon carrying it home. Melancon ran into some trouble in the ninth when Turner alertly took second on a spiked curveball. With Adrian Gonzalez up, the Dodgers were a single away from tying it up. Turner strayed too far off the bag and Posey gunned him down.

“It was just instinct,” he said. “He was anticipating a ball being put in play and took that one or two extra stutter steps. 

Melancon emphatically yelled on the mound. Cain watched the final out from the trainer’s room. The win was his first over the Dodgers in four seasons, and while on the mound, Cain lowered his ERA to a staff-best 2.42.

“He did a great job locating his fastball,” Posey said. “He threw his curveball for strikes, expanded the zone with his fastball, mixed some changeups in. He did a nice job.”

The approach looks sustainable, and the Giants need it. Madison Bumgarner had another MRI on Monday and while the Giants don’t have a firm timetable yet, manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged that it will “be a while.” 

In the meantime, the Giants will try to find a mix that works. Hunter Pence was moved up to leadoff Monday and he drove in a needed insurance run. The infield trio of Brandon Crawford, Arroyo and Joe Panik combined for the first run, with Crawford doubling, Arroyo moving him over, and Panik skying a ball deep enough for a sacrifice fly. 

Bochy praised Arroyo for his approach in that moment, and the rookie said he was focused hard on getting Crawford over. It was the kind of at-bat the Giants teach in the minors, and they hope more is on the way. The Triple-A squad is more talented than it’s been in years, and with big leaguers continuing to drop, the depth will be needed. 

As he got dressed Monday night, Arroyo rattled off facts from the night’s River Cats game and talked about how much he believes in the players there. He’s part of a wave that’s coming slowly, a group that includes Ty Blach, who faces a monumental task Tuesday. The young left-hander will go up against Clayton Kershaw as the Giants try to keep the momentum going.

“We’ve got our hands full tomorrow,” Bochy said. “We know it. I thought tonight was huge for us to stop things.”