Hunter Pence’s rousing speech prior to Game 3 of the NL Division Series in Cincinnati helped propel the Giants into the NL Championship Series. He let his bat do the talking Monday, smacking a decisive two-run double that allowed the Giants to capture their second NL pennant in three years.
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The Giants became the second team in Major League Baseball history to win six elimination games in a single postseason when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 9-0 in Game 7 of the NLCS at AT&T Park. The do-or-die win puts the Giants back in the World Series, where they’ll face the AL champion Detroit Tigers starting Wednesday.
“I’m still numb,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “They were determined not to go home. They had a never-say-die attitude. And Hunter [Pence] did a great job of keeping them pumped up.”
The Giants didn’t hesitate to put runs on the board Monday. They opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning when leadoff man Angel Pagan crossed the plate on a fielder’s choice. The run was significant because the team that notches the first run is 10-2 in Giants postseason games this season.
Matt Cain became the third straight Giants starting pitcher to record an RBI hit when he slapped a single to center in the second, scoring Gregor Blanco to make it 2-0.
But the dam didn’t break until the third inning when Pence stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs.
Pence may have inspired teammates with his words during this postseason run, but his bat was silent through the first six games of the series. He went into Game 7 batting .163 with only one RBI. But he delivered when it mattered most, smacking a broken-bat double past shortstop Pete Kozma that scored NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval (Buster Posey also scored when Matt Holliday bobbled the ball in left field). The hit was hardly conventional, hitting Pence’s bat three times before zipping into center field. But Pence said his approach was no different than usual.
“See the ball, hit the ball,” Pence said. “I just wanted to catch something out front.”
By the end of the third, the Giants had a 6-0 lead.
Cain didn’t have his best stuff Monday, but he was good enough to toss 5²?³ innings of shutout baseball before turning it over to the bullpen.
“I think it says a lot about his makeup and how he competes,” Bochy said.
The Giants rallied back from a 2-0 deficit, winning three straight road games in Cincinnati two weeks ago to earn a berth into the NLCS. They also trailed the Cardinals 3-1 in the series last week, but they outscored the Redbirds 20-1 in the last three games of the series with their backs against the wall.
Bochy said he was proud of the way his team battled through adversity all season.
“I do know we were written off many times,” he said. “But these guys, again, were relentless in getting it done and they found a way.”