NLCS: Giants into World Series with 9-0 rout of Cardinals

SINGING IN THE RAIN::San Francisco completed their rally in the rain after being down 3-1, thanks to stellar pitching from Matt Cain and a bizarre double from Hunter Pence

AP, SAN FRANCISCO

Wed, Oct 24, 2012 - Page 20

The San Francisco Giants will meet the Detroit Tigers in the World Series after beating defending champions St Louis 9-0 in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS) in a rainstorm on Monday.

Hunter Pence hit a bizarre, two-run double and Matt Cain pitched his second clincher of the month as the Giants won a record-equaling sixth elimination game of the post-season, completing a lopsided rally from a 3-1 deficit.

NLCS Most Valuable Player Marco Scutaro had 14 hits in the series and Pablo Sandoval drove in a run for his fifth straight game. The Giants returned to the World Series two years after winning it.

“The rain never felt so good,” Scutaro said. “We’re going to the World Series, this is unbelievable.”

The Tigers have been waiting on their opponent since finishing a four-game sweep of the Yankees in the American League Championship Series on Thursday.

The Giants will host Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series today.

Scutaro produced his sixth multi-hit game of the series and matched an League championship series record with 14 hits, and Pablo Sandoval drove in a run for his fifth straight game.

“These guys never quit,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “They just kept believing and they got it done.”

After falling behind 3-1 in the series at Busch Stadium, the Giants outscored the wild-card Cardinals 20-1 over the final three games behind stellar starting pitching from Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Cain.

They also benefited from some strange bounces.

On Pence’s double that highlighted a five-run third, his bat broke at the label on impact, then the broken barrel hit the ball twice more. That put a rolling, slicing spin on the ball and caused it to change directions — leaving shortstop Pete Kozma little chance to make the play. Kozma broke to his right, figuring that was where the ball would go, but it instead curved to left-center.

“It was going to go in the hole and it ended up going up the middle,” Kozma said.

Injured closer Brian Wilson, with that out-of-control bushy black beard, danced in the dugout and fans in the sellout crowd of 43,056 kept twirling their orange rally towels even through rain in the late innings — a downright downpour when Sergio Romo retired Matt Holliday on a popup to Scutaro to end it.

Romo embraced catcher Buster Posey as fireworks went off over McCovey Cove beyond right field.

“It’s just very fitting the way everything has gone for us this season,” Romo said of ending in the rain. “The ups and downs, the injuries, the personal issues, whatever. What a ride for us all. It’s very, very fitting that it rained right there.”

The NL West champion Giants won their first post-season clincher at home since the 2002 NLCS, also against the Cardinals.

This year’s Giants have a couple of pretty talented castoffs of their own not so different from that winning combination of 2010 “castoffs and misfits” as Bochy referred to his bunch — with Scutaro right there at the top of the list this time around.

Acquired on July 27 from division rival Colorado Rockies, Scutaro hit .500 (14 for 28) with four RBIs in the NLCS. The 36-year-old journeyman infielder, playing in his second post-season and first since 2006 with Oakland, became the first player in major league history with six multi-hit games in a league championship series.

The Giants have All-Star game Most Valuable Player Melky Cabrera to thank for helping his teammates secure home-field advantage in the post-season — while Cain was the winning pitcher the National League’s 8-0 victory in July. Cabrera was suspended for 50 games on Aug. 15 for a positive testosterone test, then was not added to the roster by the Giants after his suspension ended.

After rain fell on the Cardinals during batting practice, the skies turned blue and the weather cooperated. Anxious players on both sides hung over the dugout rails as the game began.

Cain joined St Louis’ Chris Carpenter as the only pitchers with victories in two winner-take-all games in the same post-season. Carpenter, who lost Games 2 and 6 in this series, did it last year.

Cain also pitched the Giants’ Game 5 division series clincher at Cincinnati, when San Francisco became the first team in major league history to come back from a 0-2 deficit in a five-game series by winning three consecutive road games.

He delivered on an even bigger stage on Monday as San Francisco saved their season once again. The Giants won their 20th NL pennant and reached their 19th World Series.

Cain walked off the mound to a standing ovation when Jeremy Affeldt entered with two outs in the sixth. Affeldt then got Daniel Descalso to pop out with two runners on.

Yadier Molina had four hits, but got little help from the rest of the Cardinals, who went one-for-21 with runners in scoring position over their final three games.

Cain added an RBI single to his cause and got some sparkling defense behind him.

The play of the game went to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who made a leaping catch of Kyle Lohse’s liner to end the second inning with runners on second and third that would have been a run-scoring hit.