A History of the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS

Friday, October 15, 2010

My original postseason forecast is here. I hit 3 of 4 series - but the 4th was Tampa, who I had winning the whole thing.  Fair to say that renders those picks unsuccessful.

I picked Phils over SFG in 7.  I'll keep that pick.
I'll pick Yanks over Texas in 6. The Yankees and Rays were the best teams in baseball in the regular season, basically interchangeably so, with Tampa gone I'll slide NYY into that spot.

This couldn't have worked out better for New York; Texas really relies heavily on Lee, and his having to pitch Game 5 in the ALDS coupled with the AL starting its series a day before the NL gives the Yanks their best possible shot.  Lee doesn't ever pitch on 3 days rest - meaning he'll pitch twice and no more. The Yankees success isn't complicated - they get on base.  New York's OBP was .350, leading the majors.  Their starters ERA in the second half was an abysmal 5.24, and Texas has a platoon advantage against lefties that might mean they hit the ball pretty well in this series.  As I mentioned in my original forecast, the distance this season between the best and the worst teams in the playoffs is really small - it's a mistake to look at literally any of the 8 teams who came in as a real outlier in either direction.  But the Yankees were better during the regular season and, given that Lee won't pitch 3 times and won't pitch in a possible 7th game - you'd have to pick the Yankees if you were making a pick.  Note - that's even if they lose tonight.  Sabathia is their best starter - but he's a tick overrated in the mind of the public, and in an offensive ballpark like Texas, with that aforementioned lefty platoon advantage, you should not be surprised if the Rangers win Game One and all the talk is about their pulling a series upset.  They might pull that upset - but really, it's not that much more likely if they win tonight.  Texas has a better bullpen than you're aware; if the Yanks get clubbed a bit by some big arms in short relief, that shouldn't surprise - but absent some contribution from Hamilton to join Cruz/Kinsler it will be a challenge to get to that spot in the game.

I'm for New York.  Whenever SFG gets close, I always want it to be the Yankees we might see from the other league.  The Yankees are the World Series; if you're SFG, never having won a title and recognizing you don't get to exist in that moment too often, you want the very biggest, brightest stage you can get.  A World Series against Texas would be just fine, thanks, I won't throw it back for being too small - but if I get to pick a team to come out of the AL - I always pick the Yankees.

And we might get there.  The World Series starts a dozen days from now and Game One might be in San Francisco.  I'm not picking it that way.  I took Phils in 7 before the playoffs, and I'm saying it again now; they were the best team in the NL in the regular season and they're the team left in the tournament playing the best now.  But it's close.  The arms are equal (and I like ours, 1 through 11, more) the gloves are equal - but they have better bats than we do.  We don't get on base enough and we often waste the rare baserunners we get with misguided small ball strategy.  We don't have much success against Halladay or Oswalt (current player success, not SFG success with previous players); going down 0-2 this weekend would not be a surprise (I like our Game 2 chances better than our Game 1) my hope (and expectation, honestly) is that given our run of good decision making (leaving Zito off the roster, starting Ross in RF - both moves that I called for before the NLDS rosters were set) even if that is the case, I want to see Bumgarner in Game 4.  Lincecum on short rest seems a mistake to me, and while we are on the wrong side of the matchups in Games 1-2, I think we're on the right side in Games 3 and 4 (particularly with the Cain/Sanchez swap), and my expectation is, even if we lose both games in Philly - that we go into next Thursday night even at 2 and with a slight advantage in the Lincecum/Halladay rematch. Our NLDS was the first postseason series ever when every game was decided by one run - making 6 straight SFG playoff games with one run margins. 

Our arms are lefty heavy - particularly if Runzler replaces Mota on the roster (my preference) and that serves us well in matching up with the Phils (although not as well this year as in years previous).  We have lineup uncertainty at third - my inclination would be Sandoval over Fontenot - and actually, looking at the numbers, Renteria has relatively good success against Halladay, maybe he should get a Game 1 start sliding Uribe over to third (or sitting Uribe against Doc, that would be fine).  There's a little uncertainty over the last position player on the roster, if maybe we could use Velez instead, say of Rowand in order to get some speed.  I don't expect it but wouldn't be opposed - actually, and this seems a little crazy - I might go with one catcher and use Velez in Whiteside's spot.  Game One, incidentally, is 48 years to the day of our Game 7 loss in the '62 WS. 

You have to pick the Phillies, if you're picking - but not quite with the same level of strength as you have to pick the Yankees (and you really wouldn't want to invest in either of those picks).  The Phils have better bats, both considering their  performance this season and (and this just widens the gap) historically.  Since everything else is essentially a wash - they're the pick.  Our arms (starters and bullpen) are strong enough that we're in every game - you could definitely see a path where we just shut them down - SFG, from the end of August, is on an historic pitching run, and its possible we win four 3-2 games.  Our pen (absent Romo's NLDS meltdown) is really strong - we can go lefty/righty matchup - really from the 7th inning on we can get tough to beat.  Our starting pitchers ERA in the NLDS was .93, lowest in any postseason series since the Braves in '96.

Looking at the specific matchups:

Giants vs. Halladay.  The Good:
Burrell: 6-18
Renteria: 4-11

The Bad:
Ross: 3-16
Torres 1-7
Uribe: 4-18, six strikeouts

vs. Oswalt.  The Good:
Sanchez: 11-36
Uribe: 7-19

The Bad:
Burrell: 4-18
Fontenot: 5-21, six strikeouts
Huff: 3-12
Rowand: 3-19
Sandoval: 2-9
Torres: 2-10

vs. Hamels - The Good
Ross: 9-30, 4 homers
Sanchez: 5-12

The Bad:
Huff: 1-7, five strikeouts
Rowand: 3-15
Uribe: 1-8

vs. Blanton: The Good
Ross: 3-11

The Bad:
Huff: 4-20
Uribe: 1-11

The other side...

Lincecum vs. Phils: The Good:
Ibanez: 1-10
Rollins 3-18
Ruiz 2-10
Utley: 2-20
Victorino 4-21

The Bad:
Howard: 6-19
Werth: 3-9

vs. Sanchez: The Good:
Howard: 3-14
Rollins: 1-16
Ruiz: 1-9
Werth: 0-12

The Bad:
Polanco: 3-9
Victorino: 6-15

vs. Cain: The Good:
Howard: 2-10

The Bad:
Rollins: 6-10
Utley: 7-15

They've never seen Bumgarner. 

I spent much of the summer doing historical posts about SFG, to which you can get by clicking the label.  Only 5 previous SFG teams have ever gone this far: '62, '71, '87, '89, '02, and as there was no NLCS yet in '62 this is only our fifth ever league championship series appearance.  Let's take a look:

1971 Pirates over Giants 3 games to 1
-'71 was the worst of our NLCS teams, with a "real" regular season record of 88-74 (that was our pythag record, comparing runs scored/allowed with the rest of the league).  The Pirates had a 101 win pythag (and went on to win the WS) so they were clearly the better team.

I was a year old during this series, so my memories of it are spotty.

We actually won the first game, 5-4, on a big 4 run 5th inning.  We were down 2-1 hitting against not yet crazy Steve Blass; Chris Speier (the 15th greatest SFG of all time; did you know that?) led off with a single; Gaylord moved him over to second; Ken Henderson grounded out - and then Tito Fuentes hit an improbable 2 run homer (he had only 4 during the season).  My mother holds a curious affection for Fuentes, and other than his name's similarity to Tito Puente this homer is the most likely reason.  Mays, who had a real bounceback season in '71, with a combined WAR/WARP of 12.6, making him our best player - walked - and McCovey hit our second two run homer in the inning, giving us the 5-2 lead.  Gaylord gave up 2 in the 7th - but it was 1971 - we didn't go to the pen (Cumberland had a good enough season - but beyond Perry and Marichal, who were both just okay, we had a really poor pitching staff) and Perry not only finished the inning - but finished the game - even when, with 1 on and 1 out and a 1 run lead in the 9th inning he had to face Clemente and Stargell.

He got them both (he is the 6th greatest SFG of all time after all) and we took game 1.

That was it for the good guys - we gave up 15 hits and got ripped in Game 2 (9-4); game 3 was in Pittsburgh - Marichal giving up just 4 hits in a complete game 2-1 loss - striking out six and not walking anyone.  Our only run was in the sixth - and we left the bases loaded, really our only chance to break it open - and then Richie Hebner broke a 1-1 8th inning tie with a homer and we went down in order in the 9th.

We came back with Perry on 3 days rest and he got torched, the Bucs broke a 5-5 tie in the 6th by plating 4 more, and that 9-5 score ended the series.

1987 Cards over Giants 4 games to 3
-Those 88 pythag wins in '71, Mays's last full season in SFG, were our high water mark for a long, long time; we dropped to 79 the next year, bumped to 85 in '73 - and then settled in for the sub.500 1970s:

'74 - 71 pythag wins
'75 - 79
'76 - 71
'77 - 75

In '78, my first full season following SFG consciously, every day (I was seven), we ticked up to an 83-79 pythag - but then...

'79 - 73
'80 - 73
'81 - 57-54 (over .500, but the strike keeps the totals low)
'82 - 79
'83 - 80
'84 - 69
'85 - 67

So - the only +.500 pythagorean season was the strike season.  15 years of just nothing at all happening for SFG.

As Giants fans know - it turned around in '86; we had a pythagorean record of 90-72 - leading to 1987.

The '87 SFG had a "real" record of 93-69; still tied for 6th best in SFG history (just kicked out of fifth by the 2010 Giants).  Better than the Cardinals record.  Significantly better than the Twins - who had a sub .500 pythag.  As a 16 year old high school senior with the lead in our September production of 12 Angry Men (I wasn't a very good actor - I worked very hard, but it wasn't until the very, very end of my acting career as an undergrad that I was able to get enough bodily comfort on stage to be anything other than a guy reading lines in an animated way.  I largely read them well, had it been a radio opera, I would have been more successful) my level of SFG ardor was such that when we were tasked with giving our characters names (the jurors, for those unaware, are only numbered in the play - I was Juror 8, which is better than being Client 9) in order to develop backstory, I said I was Jeffrey Leonard.  I caught a break in that my director was less engaged in the pennant race than otherwise one might have been.

I thought we were going to the World Series and thought so most of the season - and as our lead over the Cardinals built - and the Twins, who were clearly inferior, were sticking it to the Tigers, baseball's best team in '87 - for the first time in my life I may have said out loud that we were going to win the whole thing.

I was unaware about how life worked when I was 16 years old.  We had been eliminated in '86 on my birthday by a Mike Scott no-hitter, but that wasn't enough to communicate the simple calculation:

Giants Baseball = Torture

I was..I guess one could call me semi-popular my senior year of high school, at least compared to my station in every previous year of my life.  And as a SFG fan in rural Ohio - I quickly became associated in the minds of, seemingly everyone I met with the Giants (I had a wager on the NLCS with the varsity basketball coach; I think the statute of limitations on teacher/student gambling has probably passed).  I felt a complete sense of personal investment with the outcome of the '87 NLCS.

This did not work out well.

We split games 1 and 2 in St. Louis.  They got Reuschel in the 6th inning of Game 1; breaking open a 2-2 tie with 5 hits and 3 runs in an inning from which probably Roger should have, at some point, pulled Big Daddy.  We got one more late for the 5-3 loss.  Dravecky threw a 2 hitter in Game 2; Will homered in the 2nd, Leonard homered in the 4th; we had a couple of intense skirmishes with the Cards in the mid 80s that focused on Ozzie Smith - and his 2 run 8th inning error was some sweet frosting on the 5-0 cake.

We blew a 4 run lead in Game 3 and lost 6-5; we got 3 in the second, added a Leonard homer in the 3rd - Atlee gave two of them back on a Jim Lindemann homer in the 6th - and then it fell apart in the seventh; Caveman Robinson replaced Atlee after Hammaker gave up a leadoff single to Oquendo; then Whitey's moves got us.  Curt Ford, who I do not remember, and Dan Driessen, who had been our first baseman just two years prior, had consecutive pinch singles cutting our lead to 4-3.  Lance Johnson, the White Sox Lance Johnson - remember? - pinch ran, stole second - and then he and Ford both scored on a Vince Coleman single that gave the Cards the lead and ended Robinson's night.  They'd get one more in the inning - and it was 6-4.  With two outs in the bottom of the ninth Spilman homered to get us to 6-5, but Worrell, older brother of our future closer, got Mitch to end the game.

And then we won games 4 and 5.

We came back in game 4.  The Cards got 2 off Krukow in the second; a Robby Thompson 4th inning homer cut it in half - and that man again, Hac Leonard - one flapped down his way around the bases with a 2 run homer in the fifth.  Buster Posey's 2010 is our best season by a catcher since Bob Brenly's in '87 - and Brenly homered  in the 8th to give us a 4-2 lead - and Krukow - still today, right now, this very second, a very popular radio voice for SFG, finished them off to tie the series in his biggest performance ever.

When we left Game 5 with a 6-3 win, up 3-2 and headed back to St. Louis - I could not have felt more confident.  Reuschel got hit again - the Cards were up 3-2 in the 4th when Whitey brought in Forsch (the Bob version) and we slapped him around.  Chili led off with a single.  Will followed with a single.  Brenly walked and we had the bases loaded with nobody out - Uribe, late cousin of our current shortstop, singled home 2 to give us the lead - and an Aldrete pinch sac fly plus a Thompson triple would plate 2 more and that 6-3 score would hold up the rest of the way.  Joe Price - Joe Price came on in the fifth and he only gave up two baserunners over the last five innings of the game, completely shutting down the Cards to put us a game - A Game! - from going to the World Series for the first time in a quarter century.

My dad, I recall, bought for me a celebratory beer; I was now 17, it would have been (I think) my first - and it sat on ice waiting for us to clinch. (Note - mom says she was the one who bought the beer; her memory may be better than mine on this issue; we may as well add underage drinking to her list, since I've already outed her as teaching me the point spread when I was eight.)

Mom:  Now, you're going to give me six points and Notre Dame. 
Me:  I like candy.
Mom:  We'll bet all your candy.  You'll give me seven points and Notre Dame.  For all your candy.

I think my Great Santini moment was Miami beating two touchdown+ favorite Nebraska straight up in the '84 Orange Bowl.  Mom had to take out a second job to cover her candy loss in that one.  I think the vig alone was one of those giant Chunky bars.

I never got to drink that beer, however. 

Dravecky was nearly as good in Game 6 as was he in Game 2 - good enough that his John Birch Society membership was never again raised in my house.  You throw 15 NLCS innings and give up 1 run, you can complain about the fluoridation of the water supply all you want.  You can probably find Dravecky speaking at a tea party meeting near you this weekend.

We lost Game 6 1-0, Maldonado misplayed a 2nd inning Tony Pena flyball into a triple for the only run either team would score in the game.  We led off the 5th with back to back singles, but couldn't score, and that was really all the noise we made in Game 6.

The deciding 7th game - with the beer still on ice?

Over early.  Atlee got hammered, we lost 6-0.  I don't like game sevens.

1987 was a long time ago.  It was the year Buster Posey was born.

1989 Giants over Cubs 4 games to 1
-In the history of the San Francisco Giants, no first baseman ever had a better year than Will Clark in 1989, and he lost out in the MVP Award vote to Kevin Mitchell.  The 92 win pythag, again, made SFG the NLCS favorites (this time over the Cubs) although not as good as the presumptive AL representative (the curiously large Oakland A's.  If we make the Series, I'll do that post.  This is just about the NLCS.)  Will remains the 5th best SFG ever - Mitch the 20th, he was just passed by Lincecum after the 2010 season.

As had we in '87, we split the first two on the road.  We scored 8 in the first 4 innings of the '89 NLCS.  Greg Maddux is one of the very greatest players in the history of baseball (my revised Top 200 coming soon) but doubles by Clark and Williams gave us a 3 run first inning and we were off and running.  Mark Grace's two run homer off Garrelts in the bottom was just a speed bump on our way to an 11-3.  Clark homered in the 3rd - then hit a grand slam in the 4th - that's 10 total bases and 6 rbi from Will Clark off Greg Maddux in the first 4 innings of the NLCS.  Mitch hit a 3 run bomb in the 8th to finish it off.

It happened again for Reuschel in '89 - he couldn't get out of the first inning in Game 2, he gave up 5 hits - left with us down 3, and Kelly Downs was equally effective - we were down 6-0 after one and effectively out of the game.  Homers by Mitch, Matt, and Robby could only get the final score to 9-4.

I was a sophomore in college in October of '89, in another play - which, as it turned out, had its performances scheduled for the dates of the World Series.  But I was able to make the hour drive home each night and  watch the final 3 NLCS games with my family.  Were you to walk into their Prospect, Ohio house in the late 1980s, you would have seen two living rooms - one in front and one behind.  In '87, as was it during the full 3 years that I lived there, the back room, a little smaller, was where the television was set up - but by '89 they had swapped - and now the television was moved to the front room; it was there that, in January, I came home during the middle of my freshman year to watch the Niners unbearably anxiety producing comeback in SB23 (I skipped striking the set after yet another play to come home for the game) by this point the five of us (my parents and my younger brothers) had a very defined seating pattern during important games; I sat on the couch facing the set in between my brothers in the same way that we'd go to the movies together - my dad to the side - my mom, generally too anxious to sit, cleaning the kitchen feverishly during the most nervewracking moments.

And so 9 months later - in October of '89, we were all there again, for Games 3 and 4 of the NLCS (it was just me and mom in Game 5 - it was a day game, dad was at work, my brothers either at school or at some type of after school activity; I don't recall if I spent the night Sunday or (more likely) drove back to school and then again back to my parents house.

Down 4-3 in the 7th in Game 3, we scored 2 in the bottom and won it 5-4.  It was 3-3 in the top of the 7th, Caveman - replacing Brantley who replaced Lacoss - gave up a leadoff double to Sutcliffe (consider that, Sutcliffe hit for himself in the 7th inning of a 3-3 Game three in the NLCS) - he moved to third on a Uribe error - and then scored (actually -Maddux, pinch running) on a Sandberg sac fly.

Sure, if you're committed enough to Sutcliffe to let him hit - maybe you let him run from third base in that spot, but I'm not Don Zimmer.

Paul Assenmacher came on - and Robby Thompson (10th best SFG of all time) beat him with a 2 run homer.  They got a couple hits off Robinson in the 8th - but we held on to take the series lead.

Game 4 - tight.  They score in the first.  We score in the first.  They score in the 2nd - we get 2 in the 3rd, a Williams single driving home Butler and Clark.  Maddux gave up one more and got yanked in the 4th, but Garrelts gave up the lead in the 5th and it was 4-4 when Matty Williams (9th best SFG ever) hit a two run homer in the bottom to give us the 6-4 lead.  Downs, the worst pitcher on the staff in '89, was terrific getting us into the 9th - but with two outs Sandberg's single brought Bedrosian in.  A single and a walk loaded the bases for Andre Dawson - but Bedrock struck him out swinging and we were up 3-1, and almost certain to head to the first World Series of my lifetime.

We did.  We only got 4 hits to the Cubs ten but beat them 3-2 to win the pennant.  Reuschel redeemed his previous performances, giving up just the one run through 8 innings - a Clark triple/Mitchell sac fly tied the game in the 7th, and then 3 consecutive Mike Bielecki 8th inning walks led to his removal for Mitch Williams - Will singled through the box scoring 2 - Bedrosian gave up 3 consecutive singles in the 9th to cut our lead to 3-2, but got Sandberg  to give us our first pennant since '62.

We wouldn't reach the NLCS again for 13 years.

1989 was a long time ago.  It was the year Madison Bumgarner was born.  He's the youngest pitcher to win a postseason game in the history of the organization.

2002 Giants over Cards 4 games to 1
With 90+ win pythags in 86, 87, and 89 - and with a young core of position players that, to this date, make up our best cumulative group in SFG history - you can understand why I didn't expect it would take over a decade to make another championship series appearance.

But we dropped to an 82-80 "real" record in '90, were down to 76 pythag wins in '91, and not only did we fall to '72 in '92, but the club was essentially sold to that Tampa group with Piazza's father which was going to bring in Lasorda in the front office.  Lasorda.  That's where we were at the end of '92. The death of SFG.  Worse than the death of SFG - like SFG dying and then having its corpse molested by Tommy Lasorda.

And then we weren't.  The team was saved, and the greatest player of his generation, Barry Bonds, signed as a free agent.

In 1993 we had 98 pythagorean wins; our best team, by a significant margin, since the '62 pennant winners - we had a double digit lead at the break and then watched Fred McGriff and the Braves lose as many games in the second half as Villanova missed shots in that title game win over Georgetown and we missed the playoffs on the last day of the season.

It was worse than Candy misplaying the fly ball and the earthquake series combined, and the hangover (and the lack of pitching) blew out our seasons in '94 (58-57 pythag in the strike year), '95 (61-83), '96 (71-91).

We lost in the NLDS in '97, hit 90 pythag wins for the first time since that '93 season in 1998, dipped a bit to 85 wins in '99 - then busted out with a 97 pythag win 2000, the 4th best year in SFG history, and we lost the NLDS to a clearly inferior Mets team.  We were the best team in baseball in 2000 but lost consecutive extra inning NLDS games and wound up startlingly missing our best chance at a pennant since '89.  We dipped to 86 pythag wins in '01 - but all was prelude to 2002, and a 98 pythagorean win season - tying '93 for the second best season in SFG history.

I was 32 in October of 2002; 31 years after our first ever NLCS we had reached our 4th.  I was again at my parents house for most of the games in the series - although now, we were all in Florida.  They had moved about a decade prior, me, relatively recently - I won some money on a sports game show, in no small part because of my knowledge of the very first SFG ballclub and now was a homeowner myself, going back to grad school for a Masters in US History.  Behind me in those thirteen intervening years since '89 was my finishing college, law school - moving back to the Bay Area to practice law, and then giving up law to move to Florida to teach.  But as I sat with my parents to watch the NLCS, I felt largely the way I always had, had in 1989, in 1987, all the way back to 1971 (although my memory is spotty).  We were Giants fans, and we were in it together.

We beat the Braves in the NLDS, as just happened again this season, getting us our '87 rematch against the Cardinals.  Once again - we opened on the road - but this time we took both Games 1 and 2 in fairly easy fashion.  We had a pythag advantage over the Cards and showed it early - a run in the first and then 4 in the 2nd, all off future Giant Matt Morris.  Santiago singled home Lofton in the first inning - and in the second, six consecutive two out hits:

Lofton - single
Aurilia - single
Kent - single
Bonds - triple
Santiago - single
Snow - single

...gave us a 5-0 lead and it was done.  Lofton homered in the third; Bell in the fifth; Santiago in the 6th - and we won 9-6.  The next night, we jumped on them again with Aurilia homers in the first and fifth - Schmidt cruised, 4 hits, 8 strikeouts, 1 walk, getting into the 8th and we won 4-1.

Things got tighter in San Francisco.  3 one run games - they got the first, but we took both games 4 and 5 to go to only the third WS in SFG history (again, not going to do any WS talk unless its a dozen days from now and we're readying game one) Down 4-1 in the 5th after a crummy outing by Ortiz - Bonds got us back with one swing, hitting a 3 run homer off Chuck Finley.  Bonds is the second best player in SFG history - and for the value of his full career, the second best player in MLB history - this was his second best season as a Giant  (second to '01) making it the second best season any SFG ever had - and he showed up in October, much to the disappointment of media who enjoyed the "can't do it in the clutch so he really isn't as good as you say he is" club since his Pirate days.  Jay Witasick came on in the 6th - and gave up a tiebreaking homer to Eli Marrero.  We loaded the bases with one out in the 7th - but Sanders/Snow couldn't capitalize. In the 9th, Larussa intentionally walked Bonds with the bases empty, putting the tying run on - but didn't pay for it as we lost our first/last game of the series.

Game 4 was a little scary - Livan gave up 2 in the first, a lead that held up until a two out, two run double by Snow in the 6th that scored Kent/Bonds.  In the 8th it was Santiago - hitting a two run homer (after a two out intentional walk to Bonds) making the Cards pay and giving us the 4-2 lead that became a 4-3 win.  Game 5 was scoreless until the Cards got one off Felix Rodriguez (in what should have been his last ever SFG appearance) in the 6th; Morris loaded the bases in the 8th - was left in to face Bonds - and limited the damage to a game tying sac fly.  In the 9th it was a two out single by Bell, a single by Dunston - and a single by Kenny Lofton that ended the game and the NLCS.

It's October of 2010, as hard a year as I've ever had.  I turned 40 a couple of weeks ago, about the same age my dad was when Candy misplayed the fly ball in '87. 

Tomorrow night is Game One of the NLCS.  I'm going to watch it with my mom.

2010 NLCS Giants d. Phillies 4 Games to 2

The fifth best regular season in SFG history (94 pythagorean wins) led to a NL West title, an NLDS win over the Braves and a matchup in the NLCS against the 2 time defending NL Champion Phillies.  The Giants came into the postseason hot, riding one of the great September pitching staff performances in MLB history - but as hot as we were - the Phils had been baseball's best team over the second half of the season, and at 95 pythag wins, the best team in the National League.

They were favored - and I picked them to beat us in 7.

I was wrong.  Fabulously wrong.

We won Game 1 4-3, our 7th straight one run postseason game dating back to 2003 - I'm saying it's a record, although, at the time of this writing, I haven't seen that articulated anywhere else.  Two time defending Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum beating the prohibitive favorite to win the 2010 award Roy Halladay (I voted for Adam Wainwright).

We swapped third inning homers to open the scoring - Cody Ross, a surprise starter when Jose Guillen was left off the postseason roster, hit one in the top - Carlos Ruiz in the bottom - we escaped worse fate - they had two in scoring position when Lincecum struckout Ryan Howard to end the inning.  We put two on ourselves in the 4th on singles by Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell - but a Juan Uribe groundout ended that threat.

We won the game in the fifth and sixth - Ross hit another homer in the 5th; and a Burrell 6th inning double scored Buster Posey to put us up 3-1 - which became 4-1 when Uribe singled home the pinch running Nate Schierholtz.

It wouldn't be 2010 Giants baseball without a little torture - Jayson Werth hit a two run homer in the bottom of the 6th to make it 4-3, but the Phils couldn't get a tying runner in scoring position over the final 3 innings, Brian Wilson closing it out with a 4 out save.

Game 2 broke that streak of one run decisions; Jonathan Sanchez, prone to losing control of the strike zone, walked 3 in the first, add a Mike Fontenot error, and we were down 1-0.  We tied it in the 5th - Cody Ross hit his third homer in two days - our first hit of the game off Roy Oswalt, but they took the lead for good in the bottom on a leadoff double by Shane Victorino followed by consecutive flyballs which moved him around.

The bullpen melted down in the 7th; the kill shot a 3 run Jimmy Rollins double off Santiago Casilla that made it 6-1 and sent us home for the middle 3 games all even at 1.

We went home.  Took both Games 3 and 4, and essentially ended the series.

Matt Cain (combined WAR/WARP 9.2) shut the Phils down in Game 3.  They got two on in the 3rd on a single and hit batsman; they got two on in the 4th on a single and a walk - but we scored first in the 4th; Edgar Renteria (2.2) moving into the starting postseason lineup after (correctly) being benched for most of 2010, led off with a single; following two outs and a Burrell (6.0) walk, Ross and Aubrey Huff hit back to back singles to put us up 2-0; and that became 3-0 the following inning with an Aaron Rowand double/Freddy Sanchez single.  Cain put two on in the 7th, but again got out of it - Javier Lopez/Brian Wilson had a harmless 8th/9th to finish the 3-0 shutout.

Game 4 was what we had come to expect - a nearly 4 hour long gutbucket of anxiety.  2 singles off of and 2 wild pitches by Joe Blanton got us a first inning run.  Posey drove in his second of the game in the third, doubling home Huff to put us up 2-0.  Madison Bumgarner, 21 years old (5.1 combined WAR/WARP) got into trouble in the 4th, putting 2 on with 1 out - but got Werth and Rollins, the latter on a called 3rd strike, to maintain our lead. 

But he didn't survive another inning.  Two consecutive singles started off their fifth - and after a successful Joe Blanton sacrifice, two consecutive singles cut the lead in half and chased Bumgarner.  Casilla (4.6, which is a strong year for a short reliever) followed up his crummy Game 2 with a crummy Game 3, giving up a 2 run double to Placido Polanco - then a walk, hit batsman, and a wild pitch that gave the Phils 4 in the inning and we were down 4-2.

We got one back in our half - Aubrey Huff (12 - our best first base season in two decades) singled home Andres Torres to get us into their bullpen - and that paid off an inning later when we scored two in the 6th to retake the lead 5-4 after a Burrell walk and back to back doubles by Cody Ross and the forgotten Pablo Sandoval. 

Like most SFG fans, I have a strong affection for Sandoval, who had emerged in 2009 as our best position player since Bonds, but his bat dropped off badly in 2010 and he was an afterthought in the postseason - he had a chance here, after that two run double, to really re-assert himself - but with one out and the bases loaded in the 7th, he ground into a double play.

Our set up man during the season was Sergio Romo (4) he and Casilla really a terrific late inning bridge to Wilson - but Romo was blistered by the Braves in the NLDS, so his coming on in the 8th to protect our 5-4 lead, after an inning opening  Howard double, felt loaded with all sorts of peril.  

It was a reasonable feeling.  Werth doubled to tie it at 5, and the series was in the balance.

Nothing for us in the bottom of the 8th.  Nothing for them (whew) in their 9th.

The 11th pitcher of the game was Roy Oswalt, who had burned through us pretty easily in Game 2 - but after a Sanchez lineout opened the inning - we got him.  Huff singled.  Posey's fourth hit of the game singled him to third - and Juan Uribe's fly ball to left scored the winning run.

And 3 games to 1 was a pretty big hammer to drop.

We couldn't close them out at home; Halladay beating Lincecum in the rematch 4-2.  Balls were struck, runs were scored, errors were made.  But come on - we're up 3-1, let's get to the pennant!

Sanchez met Oswalt in Game 6 - and given Oswalt's dominance in Game 2 and the series shifting to Philadelphia, you could forgive the nervousness.  Or worse - the creeping panic after 3 hits and a wild pitch in the first inning gave them a two run lead just as we got off the plane. 

We got two singles in the second - but didn't score, and still down 2-0 the concern rose another notch.

Calm down, Jividen - we're about to get them back in the third.  Look!

Sanchez (the pitching version) and Torres led off the third with singles, were bunted over, then both scored on a single by Huff and a Polanco throwing error. 

2-2!  2-2!  Now let's keep the goddamn Phillies off the bases.

Sanchez put the first two on in the third and that was the end of his night.

Then the bullpen won the pennant.  Affledt threw two perfect innings; we went to the 5th still tied at 2.

Singles by Fontenot and Sanchez (the Freddy version) gave us 2 on with one out in the fifth - but we did not score.

Bumgarner came on for the bottom and loaded the bases.  But he got Victorino to ground out to end the inning.

2-2.  2-2.  2-2.

We got two more on, again with one out in the 6th.  A Renteria double play ended the inning. 

They had a runner at 3rd with one out in the 6th.  Bumgarner got Ben Francisco looking and then a Rollins fly ball to end the inning.

2-2.  2-2.  2-2.

Again - again 2 more on in our 7th.  Again, nothing. 

But in the 8th we got them.  Juan Uribe homered off Ryan Madson - putting us up 3-2 - and setting the stage for a 5 out Wilson save; a Carlos Ruiz double play ended the 8th - and after we loaded the bases but did not score in the 9th, Wilson walked two - but got groundballs from Gload and Polanco - and then struck Ryan Howard out looking to end the game and win the pennant.

For the fourth time in SFG history - onto the WS we went.

And this time, we won.

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