Baseball reputations are made in autumn and more than Halloween trick-or-treaters the San Francisco Giants are the boys of October these days.
Virtually no one predicted that the Giants would be contesting the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014, but here they are again, attempting to add to team lore.
The Giants also took Game 1 over the Cards, hanging in for a 3-0 triumph behind southpaw Madison Bumgarner, who is one of the players gaining a formidable rep for being a clutch thrower.
San Francisco won 88 games this season, equal to the lowest amount of any other team in the playoffs, but as other teams pack their suitcases for the off-season the Giants keep swinging the bats.
By this time several Giant players have become as well known in TV-watching households as actor Rob Lowe with his annoying satellite television commercials, or James Spader in The Blacklist. That’s because San Francisco won World Series crowns in 2010 and 2012 under manager Bruce Bochy with much the same cast.
Ready for the big show
Summer weather in San Francisco has often been ridiculed for its chill. Maybe it’s just training the Giants for fall baseball. Don’t know if you can classify it as a dynasty if a team wins only every other year, but certainly there are enough Giants still playing key roles that they won’t get stage fright from the big crowds and the bright lights.
Saturday night, Pablo Sandoval, the bulging third baseman whose build is more sumo wrestling than ground-ball conquering, smacked three hits. Those with half-decent memories will recall not long ago Sandoval registering a three-home-run game in a World Series against the Detroit Tigers. Sandoval, catcher Buster Posey and outfielder Hunter Pence are familiar faces, but Bochy has been forced to mix and match at other positions because of injuries.
So this is not precisely the same Giants team as those past champs. But much like the Kansas City Royals in the American League, the Giants keep rolling, finding ways to win.
St Louis know how to play too
Still, San Francisco is faced with the formidable task of topping the Cardinals, another franchise that always seems to find a way to insinuate itself into the playoffs. Then they take advantage of the second season to destroy the hopes of newcomer teams.
When Tony La Russa retired as St. Louis manager, the competition to succeed him was fierce. That’s because the Cardinals are one of the best-run, tradition-drenched clubs in the sport. Mike Matheny took over for the 2012 season and there was a lot of wait-and-see. One reason was because future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols split in free agency at the same time.
Albert has never been Albert again with the Los Angeles Angels, but the Cardinals have still been the Cardinals. In three seasons Matheny has presided over three playoff teams, two NL Central Division championships and one World Series appearance.
The last time there was a World Series without the Giants or Cardinals on the National League side was 2009. The St. Louis Cardinals, who have won the second most championships in baseball behind the Yankees with 11, know October, too.