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Gans: Giants prove to be the best team (Oct. 30)

Sam Gans | Monday, October 29, 2012

All year long, in both the regular season and National League postseason, the San Francisco Giants had to come from behind, leaving speculation from April to October about just how far the team would go.

So, of course, the World Series they won Sunday night was the exact opposite of their style all season.

The Giants dominated the Detroit Tigers, sweeping the Fall Classic and leaving no doubt about who was the best team in baseball.

As easy as they made it look in the final four games, they made things very difficult on themselves before the World Series. The Giants started the year on a three-game losing streak and were trailing their bitter rivals, the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers, by 7.5 games in the National League West on May 27. Despite catching the Dodgers on June 27, the two teams alternated places at the top of the division – Los Angeles held sole possession of the NL West lead as late as Aug. 19 – until San Francisco pulled away with a strong September.

When the postseason finally arrived, it appeared a rough start would finally cost the Giants after they fell behind Cincinnati two games to none in the best-of-five NLDS. Yet San Francisco managed to win three in a row – all on the road – to advance.

And in the NLCS, again needing three wins in a row to move on after trailing three games to one, the Giants did to the Cardinals what St. Louis notoriously did in 2011 to win the World Series: rally despite long odds.

San Francisco showed by that point it had the mental fortitude to win with its back against the wall. But was it a fluke?

The Giants’ play in the World Series answered that question clearly.

They won through all facets of the game. Strong pitching, power hitting and small-ball were each utilized effectively.

What makes the result even more impressive is they did it without some marquee players. Melky Cabrera, the All-Star Game MVP, was left off the playoff roster following a 50-game suspension for testing positive for high levels of testosterone. Young studs Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval and Buster Posey filled the void. All-star closer Brian Wilson and his renowned beard missed nearly the whole season due to Tommy John surgery. Sergio Romo performed marvelously in his absence.

In addition, Tim Lincecum and midseason acquisition Hunter Pence, both stars, struggled at times, yet found ways to contribute. Pence batted a miserable .210 in the postseason, but played a key role in San Francisco’s 2-0 win in Game 2 with a run and RBI.

Meanwhile, Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, had a terrible 2012 season and was demoted from the starting rotation to the bullpen for the playoffs. Yet he accepted his role and pitched quality innings in middle relief to help his team.

And speaking of Cy Young Award winners, how about the resurgence of Barry Zito? The 2002 AL Cy Young winner struggled with an injury and career-high ERA in 2011 and had an average 2012 regular season. But in his three starts this postseason, he pitched a total of 16 innings with only three earned runs allowed. San Francisco won all three games he pitched.

The Giants did it their way. They may not have had the offense of the Rangers, the pitching of the Reds or the hype of the Yankees, but they had the best all-around team. And as a result, they’ve now won their second World Series in three seasons.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans1@nd.edu