Orange October is officially over. And it ends, fittingly, on Halloween, in a sea of black and orange, celebrating something no one would have thought they would be celebrating this season:
A second World Series title in three years.
It was fitting when, during the celebration ceremonies, Manager Bruce Bochy invoked a theme that certainly fit, and explained, their unlikely postseason run: Never Say Die. It certainly makes sense, considering how inconceivable it seemed, on many occasions throughout the 2012 MLB season, that they would get this far. But, they stayed true to themselves, remained the strong unit, and never said die.
When closer Brian Wilson was lost for the year with structural issues in his elbow, forcing manager Bruce Bochy to use the dreaded “Closer by Committee,” their bullpen could have easily imploded (and sometimes did, in spurts throughout the early regular season). But they never folded.
Midseason MVP, and All-Star MVP, Melky Cabrera was tagged for a PED suspension, and was out for the rest of the year – eliminating the Giants’ best offensive weapon for the stretch run. They could have easily threw up their hands, without any sort of consistent offense to speak of. But they never gave in.
The hated Los Angeles Dodgers re-tooled with a bevy of talent, including Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett, in a mega-trade with the Boston Red Sox, and looked primed to yank the NL West title right from under them. The Giants could have obliged – but they refused to relent to the prognosticators.
But this was a team that boasted a pitcher that threw the first perfect game in franchise history. This was a team that boasted a Cy Young Award winner that was slowly figuring things out and, despite his unimpressive record, would eventually come through for his team. This was a team that, in the midst of losing one of their World Series starters to get their eventual fallen offensive power, would find a clutch pitcher, in Ryan Vogelsong, that would be one of their most consistent forces on the mound. And this was a team that, despite that consistent power bat, would find offense in some of the most unlikely of places, en route to their second NL West title since 2010. For as July turned to August, the Giants lead on the division slowly ballooned, as the Dodgers slowly imploded, and they won the NL West with relative ease.
While the division title, this time around, was relatively easy to obtain as the postseason loomed, it was anything but when the playoffs arrived. While Giants fans invoked sentiments of “Orange October” when they began their NLDS against the high-octane Cincinnati Reds, Dusty Baker’s squad did not seem very impressed. And, before anyone knew it, they fell behind 0-2, headed back to Great American Ball Park for three games.
But, again, they never said die. With a little help in Game 3 to survive against Homer Bailey and the Reds, they propelled themselves to an unlikely five-game series win, on the strength of an offensive explosion, outscoring Cincinnati 14-7 in Games 4 and 5, after only scoring a combined 4 runs in their first three.
They fell down 3 games to 1 against a St. Louis Cardinals team who didn’t seem to know what the term “surrender” meant, and knew a thing or two about the art of the Comeback. After all, after their own miracle run to last year’s World Series title, the Cards found themselves back in the NLCS after eking into the postseason, and getting past both the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals by the skin of their teeth. So, surely, when they were the ones with the lead, and facing the unheralded Barry Zito in Game 5, a second straight appearance in the Fall Classic was a foregone conclusion.
But the Giants flipped the script on the “Never Say Die” Cardinals. And, with lights-out performances by Zito, Vogelsong and Cain, the Giants proceeded to squelch any comebacks the Cards had any inkling of having. Outscoring their opponents an astonishing 20-1 in their final three games – including a record 9-0 blowout in Game 7 – the Giants proved that they, too, never say die, and found themselves in the World Series.
As unbelievable as their run to the Fall Classic was, what was even more unbelievable was the way they plowed through the AL Champion Detroit Tigers, with an unhittable ace (Justin Verlander), and a hulking, slugging offense that, themselves, blew through the New York Yankees in a sweep. Pablo Sandoval’s historic 3-HR night in Game 1 (which eventually led to his series MVP award) set the tone, showing his team – and the baseball world – that Verlander was not a machine, but was a man.
En route to an unlikeliest of 8-3 blowouts with Zito pitching a 5.2-inning, 1-run performance, the Giants seemed in complete control. Two straight shutout performances by Madison Bumgarner and Vogelsong were supplemented by extended relief appearances by Tim Lincecum – the two-time Cy Young winner who had willingly accepted his role as a reliever – and was highly effective in it throughout the postseason (13.0 IP, 1 ER, 0.69 ERA).
It all led to a Game 4, anchored by Cain, in which a win would mean an improbable sweep; while a loss would mean a second meeting with Verlander, and the possibility of a series that could swing in either direction.
Despite going up 1-0 on a Brandon Belt triple that brought in Hunter Pence, Triple Crown Winner Miguel Cabrera hit a 2-run HR to take their first lead of the series. NL batting title winner Buster Posey struck back with a two-run HR of his own, to take the lead back. The lead didn’t last long, however, as Delmon Young hit a solo shot to tie the game at 3-3. As the innings drug on, a single swing by Detroit could send the series to a Game 5, but the bullpen, led by Jeremy Affeldt, shut down their best hitters.
Then came the decisive 10th inning, when former Cardinal Ryan Theriot got on base, for NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro. Facing off against closer Phil Coke – who looked practically invincible throughout the playoffs – Scutaro hit a double to bring Theriot home. With the 4-3 lead, in came RP Sergio Romo to close out the championship. With two outs, it had to come down to Romo, one-on-one, against Cabrera. He promptly, and emphatically, shut Cabrera down with a called Strike 3 down the middle.
The unbelievable had happened. Their “Never Say Die” creed paid off. The San Francisco Giants, as the consummate team, and despite everything, were champions of the baseball world again.
Now, as another victory parade through the streets of San Francisco has come and gone, and with another Orange October about to end, all Giants fans can do – and want to do – is bask in the glory of these “Never Say Die” Giants. It truly was an unbelievable run, and, as unorthodox as it was – winning with unlikely offensive performances, stellar defense and even better pitching – it was vintage Giants baseball.
And they wouldn’t have it any other way.