The Giants win the pennant


The Giants win the pennant

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


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.

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.

No Indians first pitch for 'Wild Thing' in World Series


No Indians first pitch for 'Wild Thing' in World Series

CLEVELAND -- Wild Thing will have to stay in the bullpen during the World Series.

While actor Charlie Sheen, who played Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the movie "Major League" offered to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before one of this year's World Series games, Major League Baseball said the choices have already been made.

A spokesman told the AP on Friday that MLB has worked with the Indians to identify "former franchise greats" to throw out the first pitch for the games in Cleveland. An announcement is expected early next week.

The Indians host Games 1 and 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday. If necessary, Cleveland will host Games 6 and 7 on Nov. 1-2.

There had been a movement by fans on social media for Sheen to throw the first pitch and be part of the pregame festivities.

Sheen got wind of the buzz and responded on Twitter, posting a photo of himself as Vaughn in his Indians uniform and wrote, "Major League continues to be the gift that keeps on giving! if called upon, I'd be honored."

Sheen made an appearance during the playoffs at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday when the Chicago Cubs beat Los Angeles in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Released in 1989, "Major League" is a fictional account of the Indians finishing in first place with an unconventional group of players including Vaughn, who struggled to find the strike zone and warmed up to "Wild Thing," a No. 1 hit song in 1966 by The Troggs.

The real Cleveland Indians, who overcame injuries to win the AL Central, before knocking off Boston and Toronto in the playoffs, took a page from "Major League" this season.

Slugger Mike Napoli and second baseman Jason Kipnis constructed a shrine in an empty clubhouse stall between their lockers like one in the movie. In the film, character Pedro Cerrano practices Voodoo and prays to an idol named, "Jobu" to help him hit curveballs.

Like Cerrano, Napoli and Kipnis have their own "Jobu" and have left gifts, including small bottles of rum and cigars, to keep them out of hitting slumps.

Cubs homer twice in win over Dodgers; tie NLCS 2-2


Cubs homer twice in win over Dodgers; tie NLCS 2-2


LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and the rest of the Chicago Cubs' bats broke out in a big way.

Rizzo homered and ended a postseason slump with three RBIs, Russell's two-run drive highlighted a four-run fourth that stopped Chicago's 21-inning scoreless streak, and the Cubs routed the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 on Wednesday to even the NL Championship Series at 2-all.

Kenta Maeda is set to pitch for the Dodgers in Game 5 on Thursday against Jon Lester. Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said he will not start Clayton Kershaw on short rest after the Los Angeles ace threw a bullpen session Wednesday.

Chicago ensured the NLCS will return to Wrigley Field for Game 6 Saturday.

To break out of his prolonged slump, Rizzo used teammate Matt Szczur's bat.

"I know Szczur's bat has a lot of hits in it," Rizzo said. "I've done it a few times this year, just switching up the bat, switching up the mindset."

Following consecutive shutout losses, the Cubs rapped out 13 hits on an 80-degree night with the warm Santa Ana winds fluttering the flags in center field.

Rizzo and Russell had three hits each. Chicago's 3-4-5 hitters - a combined 2 for 32 in the first three games - busted out. Every Cubs starter got at least one hit except Kris Bryant, who walked twice.

"Today was a must-win for us," Ben Zobrist said.

Los Angeles was limited to six hits and made four errors in a game that dragged on for 3 hours, 58 minutes.

Mike Montgomery won in relief of John Lackey, who was chased after consecutive walks opening the fifth. Four days shy of his 38th birthday, Lackey allowed two runs, three hits and three walks.

Julio Urias, at 20 years, 68 days the youngest postseason starting pitcher in major league history, gave up four runs and four hits in 3 2/3 innings. He was the third consecutive left-hander to start the series for Los Angeles.

Chicago rattled off three straight hits to open the fourth, sparked by Zobrist's leadoff bunt single to third.

"With the way that our bats were swinging it at the beginning of the game, we just had to do anything we could. That was my thought process," Zobrist said. "I felt like if he threw a strike, I could get one down in a good spot and was able to do it.

He took second on Javier Baez's single to left, and Willson Contreras followed with a single to nearly the same spot in shallow left, scoring Zobrist.

Baez moved up to third and Contreras took second on left fielder Andrew Toles' errant throw to the plate that skidded all the way to the backstop.

Jayson Heyward hit a run-scoring groundout, and Russell followed with his first extra-base hit since Sept. 30 and his first homer since Sept. 19. He jubilantly pumped an arm as he rounded the bases on his two-run drive, which put the Cubs ahead 4-0.

Rizzo homered off Pedro Baez leading off the fifth, snapping his 0-for-11 skid in the series. Rizzo had entered 2 for 26 in the postseason.

Los Angeles closed to 5-2 in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, Justin Turner's likely double-play grounder caromed off Montgomery's outstretched glove and Russell, who scrambled on all fours at shortstop as the ball went into left-center field for a two-run single.

Chicago tacked on five runs in the sixth off relievers Ross Stripling and Luis Avilan. Dexter Fowler singled in the first run, Rizzo added two more on a bases-loaded single and Javier Baez hit a sacrifice fly, with a second run scoring on an error by center fielder Joc Pederson.


Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second. A sliding Gonzalez stretched his left hand toward the tip of the plate as catcher Contreras applied the tag with his left hand near Gonzalez's upper left arm.

The Dodgers challenged Angel Hernandez's call, which was upheld on video review. That drew online scorn from Washington star Bryce Harper.

"He was safe! Replay system still broke..Same thing all year long! (hashtag)DontMessItUp," Harper tweeted.


Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully will attend Thursday's game, his first time back at Dodger Stadium since calling his last home game on Sept. 25. The 88-year-old ended his 67-year career this month with the regular-season finale at San Francisco.


Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. left in the seventh because of left hamstring tightness.


Ashton Kutcher and wife Mila Kunis announced the Dodgers' starting lineup. Also on hand were Rob Lowe, Charlie Sheen, George Lopez, Larry King and Mary Hart.


Lester allowed one run in six innings of Game 1 in the series, getting a no-decision in Chicago's 8-4 victory. ... Maeda has a 9.00 ERA in two postseason appearances. He allowed three runs and four hits in four innings of the NLCS opener and didn't factor in the decision.