This is No. 2 on Golden Gate Sports’ list of the Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012. For a quick reminder, please read No. 3
A sour taste existed in the Giants’ mouths as they entered Spring Training prior to the 2012 season. Fresh off a dissatisfying 2011 campaign which saw them become one of the few teams not to make the playoffs after winning the World Series a year before, San Francisco had sights of getting themselves back to the top of the baseball platform.
New corps were added into the mix, but nothing too noteworthy, to be sure. At the time, Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera, both of whom were acquired in trades during the offseason, didn’t seem to be team-changing additions. Rather, two fourth outfielders, or perhaps a third outfielder, at best. Instead of swinging for the home run, general manager Brian Sabean again chose value over the big splash, a typical Sabean move that has brought winning baseball to the Bay Area.
The seemingly trivial acquisitions at the time aside, Buster Posey was the talk of the town during Spring Training. How was he going to recover from his devastating left injury? Will he ever be the same hitter? Should the Giants move him to first base? And you know, questions of that type.
Giants’ fans camping out in Scottsdale, the Giants’ Spring Training home, were just happy to see Posey simply take a round of batting practice. Roars of cheer would erupt from the stands when he hammered a line drive off of a batting practice pitcher. Simply put, he was under the microscope, and for good reason.
A healthy Posey, meant a confident Giants’ squad that had hopes of returning to the climax of baseball’s pyramid.
There were minimal concerns regarding their always consistent rotation. Ryan Vogelsong had a couple of minor back flareups during his first few workouts, but nothing extensive. Tim Lincecum also an abundance of shoddy outings, but few pundits worried about his effectiveness. Only the smartest of them would guess that the “Freak’s” un-freakish Spring Training would be a slight glimpse into the future.
Of course, there’s Brian Wilson, whose right-arm limited him towards the end of 2011. Wilson only pitched three games before waving good-bye to his season, as the All-Star closer required a third surgery on his right-arm. Santiago Casilla did a nifty job of filling Wilson’s void through the first half of the season. Then he stumbled over a blister that forced skipper Bruce Bochy to turn to a closer by committee approach. Surprisingly, Bochy’s late-inning mixing and matching worked quite well.
As Wilson became irrelevant, other headlines captured the spotlight. Whether that may be Angel Pagan’s home run in Cincinnati 19 games through the season, or Melky Cabrera’s 51 hits in May, which surpassed Giants’ records that legends set years ago.
Each month, there was something new. In June, Matt Cain tossed a perfect game against the Astros. It was the first perfect game in Giants’ history, and some perhaps deemed it the best perfect game of all-time, as Cain tied Sandy Koufax’s record for the most strikeouts in a perfect game with 14. He did garner some assistance from his defense, though. Most notably, Gregor Blanco made a game-saving catch in the seventh inning, diving into Triples Alley at full speed and laying out to his fullest to corral the ball in as Cain tipped his cap from the pitcher’s mound.
The monthy trend continued into July. This time, it was the Giants dominating the All-Star game in Kansas City. Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, and Buster Posey were all voted into the start the game, while Cain was picked to be the National League’s starting pitcher.
Sandoval started the Giants’ dominance with a bases clearing triple off Justin Verlander in the first inning. Here, we saw another glimpse into the future, as Sandoval would eventually hit three home runs off Verlander in the World Series. Moving on, Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning which earned him the MVP. The battery of Cain and Posey pitched two scoreless innings on just one hit. And there you have, the Giants (well, maybe not) won 8-0.
As the months continued to pass, the Giants continued to build their lead in the NL West. On September 1st, they had 4.5 game lead over the Dodgers. They took two of three from LA in mid-September, and wrapped up the division on the 23rd against the Padres, as the Dodgers’ blockbuster trades didn’t pan out quite how they wanted. Still, this was just another step for the Giants, who had plans to go deeper than the first round.
San Francisco would simply tread water over the final few weeks. They couldn’t clinch anything, but had a chance to overtake one of the top two seeds. So the next meaningful game for the Giants wasn’t until October 6th.
And that’s when the ride was just beginning.
Facing the powerful Reds, they lost the first two games of the series in front of their home crowd. Season ticket holders were hugging the ushers, assuming that AT&T Park would close down for business for the baseball season. But as we all know by now, that wasn’t the case.
Hunter Pence and his famous speech propelled the Giants in Game 3, and this speech became a game to game thing until the Giants won the series a couple days later.
Next up was the Cardinals. The Giants would soon find themselves in a similar situation—down three games to one. Except, their season was in the hands of Barry Zito. In spite of all the criticism he had taken from Giants’ faithful in years past, Zito whipped up a gem, and the Giants headed back to San Francisco with arguably their two best pitchers set to go in Games 6 and 7.
Behind Vogelsong’s seven one-run innings, the Giants won Game 6, and thanks to an offense outburst in Game 7, the Giants were heading to the World Series where they would bring out the brooms.
The Giants’ overall pitching dominated a lethal Tigers’ offense which included triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Some would call the Giants lucky because a lot of the hops and calls went their way. Still, that wasn’t the deciding factor.
As Sergio Romo threw the clinching pitching, a fastball right down the heart of the plate to Miguel Cabrera who could only watch, the Giants had down the improbable. They overcame Melky Cabrera’s suspension, they overcame the Dodgers’ big moves by countering with the additions of Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro (NLCS MVP), they overcame Tim Lincecum’s season-long struggles, and in result, they were World Champions for the second time in three years.
Stay tuned as we continue our countdown on December 31st with No. 1 on our Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012.