If you missed it, I covered the San Francisco Giants regular season in Part 1. Time for the good stuff.
As I mentioned yesterday, there are no ground rules for this list and everything is listed in chronological order. Moments can stick out for different reasons. The rough draft was literally me sitting on my front porch drinking coffee and just thinking about the playoffs. I really miss baseball.
At least 10 different things jumped out at me. For instance, I thought the Hunter Pence homer in Game 1 of the World Series was a huge moment. Then as I kept adding things to the list it got bumped down. So it gets an honorable mention. Others that just missed the cut were Hunter Strickland striking out Ian Desmond in Game 1 of the NLDS and Randy Choate throwing it away in Game 3 of the NLCS.
After some more beard scratching and coffee drinking on the front porch, here’s my 7 best moments of the Giants 2014 championship run.
October 1 – Crawford’s grand slam of silence and Bumgarner’s first shutout
Were you as nervous as I was heading in to this game? I hate coin-flip games. Anything can happen. Randomness can determine a ball game. So when the top of the 4th inning of the NL Wild Card game began to unfold we were all unsure of what would happen.
Pablo Sandoval led off the inning with a single. Hunter Pence followed that with his own single through the left side. Edinson Volquez then had Brandon Belt 2-2 with a chance to start getting out of the jam. Two straight pitches out of the zone and suddenly the bases were loaded. This is when you hang on as a Giants fan. I mean, how many times this season did we see them load the bases and strand everyone? So many. So when Brandon Crawford stepped in nobody had a clue which direction this game would turn. On a 1-2 pitch from Volquez the crowd at PNC Park went silent as we all screamed from our living rooms.
It almost gets lost that Madison Bumgarner had his first postseason shutout of 2014. He struck out 10 Pirates and only walked 1. The dominant way he was pitching made the Crawford grand slam feel like a 20-run lead. It was over at that point and the Pirates had only been up to bat 3 times. I knew it, you knew it. Bumgarner had that look and we’ve watched this team do amazing things. Seriously, the best was still to come.
October 4 – 18 innings
This was THE game that may have set the Giants on their course to history. I’m so grateful they won this game. It was so unexpected and for so many reasons. I could do a top 7 list just from this game. What a series of events that led to the Giants taking a 2-0 lead in the NLDS over the Nats. Almost 3 months later I’m still confused as to why Matt Williams pulled Ryan Zimmermann, but I’m sure glad he did. I guess the lesson is, don’t walk rookies.
After 2 reasonably quick outs to start the top of the 9th, Zimmermann walked Joe Panik on a 3-1 pitch. Drew Storen came in to pitch and Buster Posey kept it alive with a single on the first pitch. Pablo Sandoval then poked one the opposite way down the left field line to drive in Panik. The Giants had life and the game went on. And on. And on.
It only went on so long because of Yusmeiro Petit. He pitched six shutout extra innings. 6! Only 1 hit allowed and 7 K’s. Who does that? Nobody, not ever. If he missed location over the plate just one time it could have been over. But he didn’t. He kept the Nats off balance and kept giving the Giants a chance to win it. Finally, just as Petit ran out of gas, Brandon Belt made the difference in what became the longest playoff game ever. With one turn of the hips he launched one and the Giants headed home with a 2-0 series lead.
October 7 – The Hunter Pence Catch
Because Hunter Pence is awesome. What a great Giant.
October 16 – Morse + Ishikawa = Champagne
All the talk heading in to Game 5 of the NLCS was about how the Giants couldn’t hit yet they could somehow score. It was dubbed “runs thrown in” by then 3rd base coach Tim Flannery. Here they were with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to clinch at home. By the end of it, there were no questions about the Giants lack of power as all 6 runs were driven in via homer. I had totally forgotten about Joe Panik’s shot off Adam Wainwright. Sorry Joe.
Pat Neshek mystified Giants hitters all series long. Buster Posey later said he couldn’t pick him up. That’s why it was absolutely amazing that Michael Morse hit one of the greatest pinch-hit home runs in franchise history. Tip of the cap goes to Bruce Bochy for playing his trump card off the bench at the right time.
And then there’s Ishi. Out of nowhere starting left fielder Travis Ishikawa. Once a champion with the Giants as backup 1st baseman. That guy must pinch himself all the time. He just wanted a job and to stay in the majors. The Giants gave him another chance and when Morse went down late in the season he was flexible enough to try a new position. Can’t ask for anymore from a player than what he gave. From Giants fans everywhere, thank you Travis.
October 25 – Turning Points
Game 4 of the World Series was a huge swing game. Either the Giants were going to get back in it at 2-2 or KC would pull away at 3-1. After Ryan Vogelsong had the shortest start of his postseason career the bullpen put it on lockdown and the Giants didn’t look back.
It started after the Royals scored 4 in the top of the 3rd. Matt Duffy led off the bottom half with a single and moved up on a Gregor Blanco groundout. With 2 outs Posey drove him in with a single to left field and the Giants started to chisel away. After scoring 2 in the 5th, Pablo Sandoval pushed the Giants past 4 runs to take the lead for good. Pablo had struck out twice already from the right side of the plate and just didn’t look that good. Against left hander Danny Duffy, he was just good enough. The Giants piled it on to win 11-4 and there was renewed sense of hope with Bumgarner slated to go the next day.
October 26 – Another Bumgarner Shutout
It’s crazy that I get to write those words, right? The man had already put up great starts in the 2014 playoffs, but a World Series shutout in a series tied 2-2? That’s the stuff of legends. Doesn’t happen.
But it does, and that’s Madison Bumgarner. He put a team on his back and led them to a title. There’s no overstating how valuable he was in 2014. That’s why he’s getting awards like SI’s Sportsman of the Year as well as AP’s top male athlete of 2014. It’s all deserving, it’s something I can’t recall seeing a pitcher do in my lifetime. Doing it for the team we love is a great added bonus.
Brandon Crawford knocked in the first couple of runs to give the cushion as it was another Bumgarnerian effort. He didn’t walk anyone while striking out 8 and allowing 4 hits. All game long the ball was in different places than when he pitched in Game 1 of the series. It explained why when Bumgarner was asked before facing KC a second time if he’d like to share his game plan, his flat reply was “no”.
October 29 – Game 7
Much like the Wild Card game this one freaked me out. In a series of what turned out to be a bunch of blowouts, the best game was saved for last.
The top of the 2nd inning was exactly the type of inning the Giants are always playing for. Get the line moving, keep the line moving. Sandoval started it with a hit by pitch. It grazed his elbow thingy. He may have leaned. I pass no judgment. After that Pence nudged one through the left side Belt followed with a single to right. Here they were again, bases loaded in a winner-take-all game and nobody out. In a matter of 5 pitches the Giants had a 2-0 lead after sacrifice flies by both Morse and Crawford.
Let’s pause for Joe Panik.
The top of the 4th was similar to the 2nd inning as the game was tied, but the Giants managed to push across a run with some hustle and hard work. It was a microcosm of the type of teamwork and playing for the next guy we watched all through this run. Guys that hadn’t been there before pulled on others that had. It was the perfect way to drive in a championship winning run.
It started with Sandoval getting on base again. This time he singled and so did Pence. Belt hit a fly ball that was caught by the left fielder, but Pablo read it so well he was able to tag up and advance to 3rd with less than 2 outs. On an 0-2 pitch from Jeremy Guthrie, Morse drove a single in to short right field and the Panda came trotting home. The Giants led 3-2 in Game 7.
After some great pitching that earned Jeremy Affeldt the win, Madison Bumgarner entered from the bullpen. He had loomed over the game from the start and here he was with a 1-run lead and 5 innings in from the ring. We all thought he’d go 3, maybe 4 innings. But when he got out of what could have been a hairy situation in the bottom of the 5th the Royals were done.
In those 5 innings Bumgarner only allowed 2 hits. He struck out 4 and seemed content to pitch to outs and not just strikeouts. He used his whole arsenal and it paid off big time. Alex Gordon’s 2-out single turned triple in the bottom of the 9th took the breath out me. Bumgarner didn’t care. He just attacked the next hitter’s weakness and got Salvador Perez to pop one up on a high an outside pitch. It came down in the glove of Sandoval and the Giants had their Dynasty.
3 in 5 years, simply amazing.
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From all of us here at TortureCast thank you so much for listening, downloading, and reading during 2014. It was a thrill to be able to talk about another World Series championship. Stay tuned for more fun stuff in 2015. Go Giants!