Score and situation: They may have used the most painful (and wet) route to get there, but the torture-minded San Francisco Giants are headed back to the World Series. A 9-0 romp over the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the NLCS on Monday night earned the Giants a Fall Classic date with the Detroit Tigers and ran the team's record in elimination games to 6-0 this postseason. The final out came as rain poured down on AT&T Park and ended in an appropriate fashion as Matt Holliday popped out to Game 2 run-in mate Marco Scutaro.
The Giants are the 11th team in postseason history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in a seven-game series and the first since the 2007 Boston Red Sox came back to beat the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS. (St. Louis fans should be familiar with such heartbreak. The 1996, '85 and '68 Cardinals also blew 3-1 leads while going on to lose the series.)
Leading lads: Scutaro capped off his series MVP performance with a 3-for-4 night and led a Giants lineup that saw every starter notch at least one hit. Brandon Belt put an exclamation point on the whole affair, launching a moonshot home run to right field in the bottom of the eighth inning.
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The numbers of Giants starter Matt Cain were not eye-popping, but the right-hander did exactly what he needed to do, striking out four and spreading five hits and a walk over 5 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball. Four relievers — Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo — then took the team the rest of the way home.
Head hangers: Kyle Lohse answered a lot of questions for the Cardinals this season, but the free agent-to-be bombed in what might be his last start for St. Louis. The 34-year-old right-hander gave up five earned run and failed to record an out in the third inning before getting yanked. The six relievers behind him hardly faired any better, though it didn't make a difference with the offense the Cardinals had been sending to the plate. St. Louis was shut out for the second time in three games and managed only one run in its Game 6 defeat.
St. Louis rookie shortstop Pete Kozma had a particularly bad night, breaking the wrong way on a key play, making a bad throw home on another and going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts at the plate.
Key play: Hunter Pence's awkwardly hit double faked out Kozma and brought home a total of three runs to start the five-run third inning.
Interesting stat: Though the NLCS went seven games, it featured only one lead change and that was when Matt Carpenter hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the third in Game 3. San Francisco outscored St. Louis 27-2 in its four wins while St. Louis outscored San Francisco 17-8 in its three victories.
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What they'll be talking about: How do the Giants keep on doing this? They overcame a 2-0 deficit in the NLDS to beat the Cincinnati Reds and have now staged a 3-1 comeback against the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the first Game 7 victory in Giants postseason history. The collapse has to sting for Cardinals fans, though the bitter feelings will eventually be softened with more viewing of that 2011 World Series title DVD and a great organization that produces postseason trips on a frequent basis.
What's next: The Giants will welcome the Detroit Tigers to AT&T Park for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night. It's the second time in three years that the Fall Classic will begin in San Francisco.
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