It’s beginning to look as if it will take a stake through the heart to eliminate the San Francisco Giants from the 2014 Major League playoffs. By no means anyone’s favorite going in since they struggled to make the post-season lineup at all, the Giants are into scrap-for-every-run mode and it’s working.
As their National League Division Series paused for breath on Sunday, the Giants were leading the favored Washington Nationals 2-0 in games and in need of just one more victory in the best-of-five series to advance at the expense of a team that many believed was the best in the league.
While the Nationals are trying not to panic with their backs against the wall, the Giants, who couldn't catch the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West, can sit back with a definite smugness in their smiles, though they would be wise if they didn't. After starting the regular season as just about the hottest team in baseball, the Giants went through some trying times and in mid-September were no lock to reach the playoffs.
Now that they are there, they don’t want to leave. San Francisco has proven it likes October and many of the same characters that brought the club World Series titles in 2010 and 2012 are still in the lineup. The nation has seen many of these faces before when autumn leaves begin to tumble.
The Giants are led by manager Bruce Bochy, the same guy who was the manager for the two crowns. The inimitable Buster Posey manages traffic behind the plate. Hunter Pence, Pablo “Kung-Fu Panda” Sandoval and a few others have been part of the long ride.
Still, since it has happened only once before in post-season history (2005), not much prepares even veteran players for 18-inning, 6 ½-hour games like they experienced to best Washington 2-1 on Saturday.
It was the equal-longest game ever in the post-season, dating back to the World Series start of 1903. It was the longest-ever game in elapsed time. As some noted, the contest was the equivalent of two games and it may have the mental value of two wins for the Giants.
Brandon's on form
Although many are familiar names from past Octobers, the biggest blows struck in the Giants’ favor this year have come from guys named Brandon.
There is shortstop Brandon Crawford and there is first baseman Brandon Belt, who lived up to his last name by belting the game-winning homer to end the 18-inning Odyssey. As for Crawford, he smacked a grand slam to top the Pittsburgh Pirates to capture the wild-card game earlier in the week, and delivered three hits in the Nationals opener. It should be noted that both Brandons batted in the .240s this season, so they picked unexpected timely times to get hot.
The Giants won 88 games in the regular season, the Nationals 96. The Nationals’ starting pitching was supposed to be the best in the business. Giants starting pitching looked iffy.
The remarkable thing about San Francisco’s resurgence is the acquisition and performance of Jake Peavey, a one-time Cy Young Award winner who had worse luck than a poker player trying to overcome a marked deck while with the Boston Red Sox. Then bingo, as soon as he hit the West Coast everything broke his way. Peavey could well win the Series for San Francisco.