SAN FRANCISCO: The San Francisco Giants’ championship formula is a familiar one, just with new faces all over the diamond two years later: stellar starting pitching backed by a shut-down bullpen, a late-season surge and a manager making all the right moves.
The Giants captured their second World Series title in three seasons with a stunning sweep of the Detroit Tigers, and only catcher Buster Posey was in the lineup for the Game 5 clincher in 2010 against the Texas Rangers and also the finale at Comerica Park in 2012.
“We’re just happy right now,” Posey said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Two of the four games against the Tigers were started and won by pitchers not even on the World Series roster in 2010, and in Ryan Vogelsong’s case he wasn’t even in the majors back then.
The only regular still around from that team is Posey, and the catcher had to rebound from devastating ankle and leg injuries sustained in a home-plate collision in late May 2011 to put together an MVP-caliber season and become the National League batting champ. He played far more than anybody envisioned his body would allow.
This time, a couple of bench warmers from that last October run shined for the Giants — MVP Pablo Sandoval and Game 1 winner Barry Zito. The lefty Zito was left off the postseason roster for all three rounds in 2010.
“Just as a player, certainly you want to play on a team that wins the World Series. And to go out there and contribute, there’s nothing like that,” Zito said. “We were very adamant that we have to step on their throats. We saw what they did to New York.”
Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence were this year’s midseason additions, with Scutaro following up Cody Ross in 2010 to earn NL Championship Series MVP honors. Scutaro produced the timely hits, including a go-ahead single with two out in the 10th inning of Sunday’s 4-3 win, but Pence did plenty and became the motivational speaker of this group. He reminded his teammates to keep the focus even when they jumped out to a surprising 3-0 Series lead against the Tigers.
These Giants showed they could rally — again and again — and also thrive when playing out in front.
They fell behind 2-0 to the Cincinnati Reds in the division series, then became the first team in major-league history to rally back in a five-game series by winning three consecutive road games. They did it again against the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals, erasing a 3-1 deficit thanks largely to Zito’s Game 5 victory at Busch Stadium that sent the Giants back to the Bay Area to finish it off in San Francisco.
Six victories in six elimination games.
“The thing that made this team so special is just playing as a team, caring for each other,” Pence said. “We had our backs against the wall and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It’s not supposed to be. That was one of our mottos, and we went out there to enjoy every minute of it and it was hard-earned. Just an incredible, incredible group of guys that fought for each other.”
The Giants ended the season on a seven-game winning streak.
Reliever George Kontos summed it up the best he could in one Twitter post late Sunday: “WORLD.....SERIES.....CHAMPS!!!! That’s all that needs to be said ... This team is special. ... We did what no other team could.”
Much like that 2010 team of “castoffs and misfits” as they referred to themselves, manager Bruce Bochy had to make some tough calls. He moved struggling starter Tim Lincecum to the bullpen, and he became a dominant reliever. Another spot-on move by Bochy, who became just the 23rd manager to win two or more World Series titles.
Nobody figured the Giants would leave AT&T Park with a 2-0 lead Thursday night for the Motor City and not have to come back home for a Game 6, or 7 for that matter.
Bochy, for one, is tired of hearing people call it luck.
“For us to play like we did against this great club, I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” Bochy said. “To be world champions in two out of the last three years, it’s amazing. Believe me, I know how difficult it is to get here, and I couldn’t be prouder of a group of guys that were not going to be denied.”
When the Giants take to Market Street in downtown San Francisco for Wednesday’s Halloween championship parade, there will be no costumes needed. Brian Wilson, whose season ended in April when he needed Tommy John elbow surgery, and the man who finished off the clincher in his place by striking out the side Sunday on 15 pitches — Sergio Romo — are still sporting those dark postseason beards that have made these two such huge hits.