2014 SF Giants – This One May Be The Sweetest

2014 SF Giants

They’re all sweet. But thinking about what it took for the Giants to even get there this year, this one may be the sweetest.

The Giants never really had a healthy Angel Pagan all season long. Matt Cain threw just 90 innings and was lost because of injury. Joaquin Arias was their starting second baseman in the first game of the season. Brandon Hacks, I mean, Hicks had 204 at bats. Tyler Colvin, Adam Duvall, Andrew Susac, Ehire Adrianza, and Hector Sanchez all had important at bats for this team. Oh yeah, they even signed Dan Uggla for a week.

Brandon Belt and Michael Morse were hurt during the season and missed time. They were very streaky all season long, winning early, losing a lot mid-season, and winning again late.

On paper, this Giants team shouldn’t have won the World Series. The analytics guys didn’t expect them to get past the Pittsburgh Pirates or Washington Nationals all the way back in early October. But the theme of the team was simply, “Get there.” Just get to the postseason and see what happens.

Even when they clinched the second Wild Card, people wondered why a team that won two out of the previous four World Series titles would be so amped up to celebrate clinching the possibility to make the divisional playoffs?

Hunter Pence explained it.

It’s like the carrot in front of the horse. When you set out in Spring Training, all your work is planting that seed that you’ll be pouring champagne on each other. That’s the dream. The dream is to do that as many times as you can — that’s why it’s there. That’s the thrill. To me, the more you can enjoy the accomplishments and make the best of it, the better. I think it’s a tremendous accomplishment of everyone to make the playoffs, and I think we get an opportunity now to have the most [champagne celebrations] you can possibly have, so I’m all right with that.

What he meant was that as the Wild Card winner, they could have the opportunity to celebrate five times (clinch a Wild Card spot, win the Wild Card game, win the NLDS, win the NLCS, and win the World Series), which would be the most celebrations in baseball history because of the inclusion of the Wild Card game in 2012.

Thanks to their victory in game seven on Wednesday night, they were able to celebrate for the fifth time.

But it absolutely wasn’t easy. Only one game was truly close before game seven in this World Series and that was game three. Every other game was won by at least five runs. You know what that meant? It meant that game seven was going to be the type of game that gave fans of both teams ulcers.

The Giants got on the board first in the second inning after loading the bases with no outs. Michael Morse hit a sacrifice fly and Brandon Crawford followed up with his own. Giants fans knew two wouldn’t be enough, but they didn’t expect the lead to be gone by the very next half inning.

Tim Hudson, whose age we were reminded of by the Fox crew ad nauseam, didn’t have his best stuff. Much like Jake Peavy the night before, Hudson’s night was over before he finished the second inning. Maybe Hudson can kid Peavy that he got five outs in his last start versus Peavy only getting four.

Alex Gordon doubled in Billy Butler and took third on a fly out. Omar Infante’s sacrifice fly tied the game at two and Hudson’s night was over.

Jeremy Affeldt is a World Series star. He took over for Hudson and finished the second inning and then two more without giving up a run.

But it wasn’t without help.

In the bottom of the third, Affeldt gave up a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain. Eric Hosmer hit a rocket toward second base. Joe Panik dove to his right and because of Cain’s speed, didn’t even have time to pull the ball out of his glove. Instead, he tossed it to Brandon Crawford at second from his glove. Crawford got the out at second and wheeled to first to try and get Hosmer. Hosmer was initially ruled safe, but replay showed that he was out at first.

Both players made mistakes with their slides. Instead of bearing down on Crawford to try and break up the double play, Cain slid head first, so he made it easy for Crawford. And then Hosmer himself slid head first into first base which allowed the Giants to get the second out. If he runs through the bag instead, he’s probably safe.

(GIF via @carmenkiew)

In the top of the fourth with Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie on his last legs, the Giants scored the final run of the game. Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence led off the inning with base hits. Brandon Belt flied out to left field and Sandoval tagged up and thanks to the best hustle play of his career, made it to third. Kelvin Herrera was summoned to the mound. He was in Morse’s kitchen immediately, but thanks to Morse’s strength, he muscled a jam shot into right field for a base hit which scored Sandoval and put the Giants up 3-2.

I’ve written over 800 words and haven’t even mentioned Madison Bumgarner one time. Like Vanessa Williams once sang, you go and save the best for last.

Bumgarner, who threw the game of his life just three days prior, entered the game in the fifth inning. There was much talk all day Wednesday about whether Bumgarner should start the game instead of Hudson. Bruce Bochy said that Bumgarner would be ready, but Hudson was still his starter. I think we should all stop questioning Bochy, the bullpen Yoda.

Bumgarner was cold coming in and struggled with his command immediately. Infante singled to lead off the inning and immediately, Royals fans came to life, hoping that bullpen Bumgarner wasn’t as good as starter Bumgarner like manager Ned Yost teased earlier in the day.

Bumgarner shut it down pretty quickly. Alcides Escobar sacrificed Infante to second. But that’s as far as he was able to go. Norichika Aoki hit a line drive down the left field line, but Juan Perez was playing him perfectly and caught it for out number two.

(I don’t think Joe Buck saw where Perez was aligned as his voice hit an excited pitch thinking Aoki had just tied the game. Sorry Joe.)

Bumgarner then struck out Cain to end the inning. And then he set down the next eleven Royals in a row.

Most thought he’d be in there for a couple of innings at most. Some thought Bochy would stretch him to a third inning if necessary. But I’m not sure anyone thought he was throwing five innings to finish the game.

He walked to the mound in the ninth like it wasn’t no thing like a chicken wing on a shoe string. Santiago Casilla was ready if need be. Bumgarner immediately got the first two outs. Then Alex Gordon dumped a single in front of Gregor Blanco in left and Blanco misplayed it into a two base error. Gordon hit third right as Brandon Crawford received the relay from Juan Perez and he stayed there.

Bumgarner had enough for one last batter. He coaxed Salvador Perez into a popup that Pablo Sandoval caught to end the game and the series.

Bumgarner’s World Series performance is up there with the best of all-time and is something I’ll tell my future grand children about.

Pence got his wish. It was time to celebrate one more time. Yes! Yes! Yes!

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