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.

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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.

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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!

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Before the right hooks and haymakers, there was the helmet toss.

A very bad helmet toss.

As he made his way to the mound after getting hit by a pitch on Monday afternoon, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. He missed by a wide margin.

Observers took notice, including Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

"What was worse, Harper's helmet throw or 50 Cents first pitch? Heads up in the #McCoveyCove," Turner tweeted shortly after the brawl between the Giants and Nationals.

Turner is referring to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by rapper 50 Cent prior to a Mets game in 2014.

Harper mentioned the helmet when addressing the situation after the game.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper told reporters.

 

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Nationals visited AT&T Park for the first time after the 2014 postseason series, Bryce Harper took to Instagram to compliment the city. “Nothing like SF! #BayArea” he wrote underneath a photo of the Bay Bridge. 

Harper, a Las Vegas kid, has always seemed to enjoy facing the Giants. He hasn’t hit well at AT&T Park, but he was a star in their 2014 matchup and he praised Brandon Crawford on Twitter during this year’s WBC. The greeting Monday was not a friendly one. 

Harper was retired three times by Matt Moore. The first pitch he saw from Hunter Strickland left a dent on his hip and set off a wild brawl. 

Strickland denied any intent. Harper seemed confused by the timing of the payback pitch. 

“It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore,” he said of their 2014 series, according to Dan Kolko of MASN. “They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”

The Giants were not surprised when Harper reacted the way he did. Now they’ll wait for Strickland to get hit with a suspension, and Harper is looking at a layoff, too. 

“You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you’ve got to go and get him,” Harper said. “You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base or you go after him. And I decided to go after him.”

Strickland, about an hour after the fight, said he’s not sure what will happen in terms of discipline. 

“That’s their decision and obviously I’ll take whatever consequences come with it and we’ll go from there,” he said. 

Any action by the league is unlikely to impact this series. Even if suspensions are handed down swiftly, players can appeal. Harper and Strickland may not be alone. Several players jumped into the fray aggressively and at least one non-active Giant — Hunter Pence — was right in the middle of the scrum. At the very least, he could be facing a fine for trying to help his teammate. 

“It doesn't look good when a guy gets hit but also on their side, the guy throws his helmet,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Strickland’s got to stand his ground. There’s no choice there. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen (with suspensions).”

One player who won’t face discipline: Madison Bumgarner, who is also on the DL but wisely stayed away from this one, even if it probably killed him to do so. 

--- The biggest hit didn’t come from Strickland or Harper. It was Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse coming together in the middle of the field. Both players said they were fine. 

"I was just trying to get in there to break everything up," Morse said. "We lost the game, that's what's most important."

Ahhh, yes, the Giants lost 3-0. Bochy seemed particularly peeved that Strickland chose the eighth inning of a 2-0 game to exact revenge, and you can bet some teammates weren't thrilled. We'll see if there's anything more to this Tuesday. There was a lot of adrenaline flowing, but some of these guys might not be feeling so spry when they wake up in the morning. Bochy said he had not heard any reports of players getting injured, but he also admitted that he didn't see most of the collisions and had no idea what happened with Morse and Samardzija, who had a world-class reaction, by the way.  

--- As with the incident with the Dodgers a couple weeks ago, Buster Posey stayed out of this one. Smartly. 

"After it happened I saw Harper point and the next thing you know he's going out after them," Posey said. "Those are some big guys tumbling on the ground. You see Michael Morse, as big as he is, and he's getting knocked around like a pinball."

Posey is not alone in staying away from these scrums where 250-pound dudes are flying at knees and ankles. Brandon Crawford can often be found on the outside, as well. It's smart, but I think something else was at play here today. Posey understands that the Giants are fighting for every scrap at this point. Every loss digs the hole that much deeper, and this happened with two outs in the eighth inning of a 2-0 game, against a team with a poor bullpen. I'd imagine there was some serious annoyance there. 

--- How angry was Strickland? It took three guys, three big guys, to drag him into the dugout: Pence, Mac Williamson, and George Kontos. 

"I was pretty fired up to be honest with you, but that’s just adrenaline," he said. 

--- Baseball fights are rather silly, but at least you get some phenomenal photos.