WORLD SERIES: Pitching the key for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO – Pitching is what the San Francisco Giants are all about. If you look for similarities between the 2010 World Series champs and the team that begins play against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night in this year’s series, the only aspect the teams share, beyond catcher Buster Posey, is the pitching.
And if you want to look at how the Giants pulled off what looked, if not impossible, then certainly improbable, by beating the Cardinals in the final three games of the National League championship series, pitching is once again what the Giants are all about. In the final three games of the series, the Giants allowed one run, in the sixth inning of Game 6. So yes, the Giants did outscore the Cardinals 20-1 in the final three games, but they could have outscored them 4-1 and gotten the same thing done.
And if you want to look at how the Giants will do in the World Series against the Tigers, it’s wise to look at the pitching staff. The Giants will put Barry Zito on the mound Wednesday night in Game 1 against Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander, and Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain will pitch Games 3 and 4, respectively. Giants manager Bruce Bochy may have to cross his fingers for Games 2 and 6, when Madison Bumgarner will be pushed into service, but getting five of seven starts from his aces will serve the Giants well. And Bumgarner will be a short hook with the Giants’ bullpen also having thrown very well in the NLCS and Tim Lincecum having thrown better out of the bullpen than he has as a starter. If the Giants keep pitching the way they did against the Cardinals, another World Series title is very do-able.
Game 5 in St. Louis, with San Francisco throwing Zito, may well have been the turning point. Once the series got back to San Francisco with Vogelsong and Cain throwing, the momentum was definitely in San Francisco’s favor.
“I think it started with Zito,” Bochy said late Monday, after Game 7, “(with) the game he threw in St. Louis and they kind of fed off each other. They just really located the ball well. … And you’ve got to make your pitches. And these guys just got on track at the right time.
“It’s all about pitching and it starts on the hill. And again, I think Zito just really sent a sense of confidence through the staff that we can do this and they followed each other.”
“Sometimes there’s no implications and sometimes there’s huge ones,” Zito said Tuesday about Game 5. “That was our big game, certainly, to cut their momentum down in their own park and to come back here was the whole season as our team. For us to do that was just incredible. It was such a blessing to be part of that.”
The Giants had ranked first or second in the National League in ERA the previous three seasons before dropping to fifth this season at 3.86. The numbers for some of the starters dipped at the end of the season; Vogelsong led the NL in ERA at 2.27 and then was at 6.75 over his final 10 starts to finish at 3.37. Lincecum had the highest ERA, 5.18, among eligible players.
The Giants will likely have to rely on pitching because another thing the NLCS showed was that other than Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval, no one on the team is hitting. In 12 playoff games, Scutaro is hitting .354 and Sandoval is hitting .320. No other regular on the team is hitting better than .222.
The Giants have shown a knack for getting timely hits, including from their pitching spot, though the heart of the order, especially Posey and right fielder Hunter Pence have made limited offensive contributions. But with Scutaro’s suddenly charmed existence and the Giants otherwise finding a way to get runs in, they are making offense happen.
“It’s a collective effort,” Pence said. “It all came together, a lot of people, a lot of unsung heroes.”
“What had to happen,” said injured Giants reliever Brian Wilson of the Giants’ wild ride, “was the perfect domino had to be played. Anything out of the ordinary could have had us back at home.”
The quick turnaround between the series was eased for the Giants by the National League having home-field advantage thanks to the All-Star Game win. That meant the Giants were back at AT&T not long after Game 7 had ended on Monday, but with a fresh start. A loss to Verlander in Game 1 will not end their season. They’ve gone 6-0 facing elimination and have a chance at winning a second World Series title in three years.
“You have to savor special moments like last night,” Bochy said Tuesday. “You have to enjoy them, which we did. But it’s time to move on now, and the journey is not over. … Let’s keep our focus here. We still have a job to do and a team to play and try to beat.”

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