Marco Scutaro stays hot, helps take Giants to verge of World Series

David Brown
Big League Stew

SAN FRANCISCO — After his teammate went 2 for 3 with a key two-run double in Game 6 of the NLCS on Sunday night, San Francisco Giants closer Sergio Romo assessed the contribution Marco Scutaro has made since the team traded for him in late July. Romo didn't downplay it.

"That's the blockbuster trade we made," said Romo, who also referred to Scutaro as the team's MVP. On a team that includes NL MVP candidate Buster Posey, that's saying a lot. But Scutaro did hit .362/.385/.473 while driving in 44 runs in his 61 regular-season games with the Giants, finishing with a 20-game hitting streak.

In the shorter term, Scutaro came into Game 6 batting .293 in the playoffs. OK. But ever since St. Louis Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday ran over Scutaro in the first inning of Game 2 he's been roaring, going 9 for 19 with a .632 slugging percentage. It's just a coincidence, Scutaro says.

"Actually, I got a little fame from getting hit by Holliday," Scutaro said with a smile. "It was kind of weird."

Scutaro's newfound fame is coming at just the right time. Thanks to a 6-1 victory in Game 6, the Giants have evened the best-of-seven series with the Cards at 3-all after being on the brink of elimination twice. Game 7 begins Monday night.

"We're 27 outs away from being in the World Series," Scutaro said. "For me, that is priceless."

San Francisco feels high right now, but the moments after Holliday smashed into Scutaro in Game 2 were tense for the Giants as he lay on the ground. Even after he got up, kept playing and contributed to San Francisco's first victory of the series, Scutaro left the game because of a sore left knee and hip. But he seems no worse for wear anymore.

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"Even if it hurts tomorrow, I'll be there," Scutaro said.

His teammates have come to expect that.

"He's been playing like that all year," said Ryan Theriot, who would have played more in the second half, if Scutaro hadn't been so good. "[Third] most hits in the National League. He's been hitting like that, honestly. You'd have to ask him if [the slide] lit the fire a little bit. But really, he's been hitting since he got here."

Scutaro's double to the left-field corner with two outs in the second inning gave the Giants a 3-0 lead. It probably was the most important hit of the game — not only for the offense, but also for right-hander Ryan Vogelsong.

[Related: Vogelsong helps Giants force deciding Game 7]

"To have a cushion like that early definitely allows you to attack the plate a little bit more, especially with that offense they have over there," said Vogelsong, who produced one of the best starts of his career, allowing a run over seven innings with nine strikeouts.

Vogelsong said Scutaro's recent fame is well-deserved and a long time coming.

"I'm glad I don't have to face him anymore," Vogelsong said. "I think a lot of the nation is finally getting to see the player that Marco is because of this postseason."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Scutaro is easier to appreciate if you watch him every day.

"And not just the talent, but what a smart player he is — on both sides," Bochy said. "He's had a great career."

Blocked by talented major leaguers in the Cleveland organization (where he started in 1997) Scutaro didn't reach the majors until age 26 with the Mets in 2002. He didn't play frequently until the Athletics at age 28, and didn't get an every day job at shortstop until going to the Blue Jays at age 33. He was down and up with the Red Sox in 2010 and 2011, and hit poorly (given the context of Coors Field) for the Rockies in 95 games this season before being rescued by San Francisco. He has played mostly second base (and some third) here.

Now 36, he sounds very appreciative of where the Giants are right now. And where they might go soon.

"I'm just trying to do my best to help my team and spend one more day with them," Scutaro said. "And tomorrow is Game 7. It doesn't get any better than that."

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