These are the Giants, who entered Game 3 of the National League Division Series on the brink of elimination, yet extended their season for at least one more day with a riveting 2-1, 10-inning triumph over the Cincinnati Reds. San Francisco's gritty performance forced Game 4 on Wednesday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
"If this is the example of the will to fight, the will to win, the will to survive -- this is the way we've been playing all year long," said Sergio Romo, who blanked Cincinnati over the final two innings to earn the decision.
That's not totally accurate. The Giants surged offensively after the All-Star break to win the NL West, but they outlasted the Reds on Tuesday despite collecting just three hits. It marked the 17th time that a team won a postseason game while totaling three or fewer hits. The last instance of this was Houston's 3-0 victory over St. Louis in Game 5 of the 2004 NL Championship Series.
But at least one contest such as this could have been expected in this series. Cincinnati (31) and San Francisco (30) ranked first and second, respectively, among NL teams in one-run victories during the regular season.
With the score tied at 1, the Giants began their go-ahead rally in the 10th with singles by Buster Posey and Hunter Pence off Jonathan Broxton, whose 5.14 ERA in 40 regular-season career appearances against San Francisco is his second worst against any NL club.
Pence hobbled to first base with a cramp in his left calf, but that was typical. Before the game began, he gathered teammates around him in the dugout to deliver a brief motivational talk.
"It wasn't so much what he said; it was the intensity and emotion he said it with," said Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, who called Pence's address "a great speech."
Broxton recovered to strike out Brandon Belt and Xavier Nady, but the right-hander's first pitch to Joaquin Arias grazed catcher Ryan Hanigan's glove for a passed ball, advancing the runners. Hanigan committed just three passed balls in 877 regular-season innings.
That proved crucial when Arias, facing a 1-2 count, tapped a grounder to third baseman Scott Rolen, who bobbled the ball. Rolen, an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, quickly gathered the ball and threw to first base. But Arias was ruled safe, enabling Posey to score.
Incidentally, the Giants have generated their four runs in the series on a solo home run, a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly and an error.
Arias knew that he was racing to first base with the Giants' survival in the series at stake.
"I ran as fast as I could," said Arias, with teammate Gregor Blanco translating. Asked if putting the ball in play was his primary goal against Broxton, Arias answered affirmatively: "Especially when I got to two strikes."
Romo, who pitched as many as two innings only once this season, retired all six batters he faced in the ninth and 10th to notch the win.
"It's in my head, 'I've got to get it done, play for another day,'" Romo said, describing his mindset.
Other Giants shared that attitude. Vogelsong walked a tightrope in the first inning by allowing three singles and issuing one walk, yet allowed just one run. That was the only tally he allowed in five innings.
Though the Reds again opened the scoring, as they did in the series' first two games, the Giants received a break when Brandon Phillips, who singled leading off, stole second base and headed for third when a Vogelsong pitch darted to the backstop. Posey recovered the ball more quickly than Phillips anticipated and threw him out.
"I've been doing that all year," Phillips said. "If the throw was a little bit high, or a little bit wide or whatever, I would have been safe. Buster Posey made a great throw. I'm an aggressive baserunner. If I would have been safe, it would have been beautiful. But I wasn't. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. My teammates thought it was a good try."
Vogelsong was fortified not only by Pence's pregame address, but also by a text message he received from venerable left-hander Jamie Moyer, with whom he crossed paths while playing in the Phillies' organization.
"God's been preparing you for this start for a long time," Moyer's text read in part, referring to Vogelsong's circuitous path to Major League success.
Vogelsong and the Giants received further inspiration in the second inning from Pence, who made a remarkable sliding catch near the wall down the right-field line on Hanigan's challenging drive.
"As I came out [of the game], he told me, 'Good job,' and I said, 'Man, you don't know what that play did for me,'" Vogelsong said. "That was strictly a hustle play. It made me focus a little bit better. When guys are making plays like that, you have to do a good job for them."
Once Vogelsong departed, Jeremy Affeldt's two-inning stint launched a procession of four relievers who limited Cincinnati to one hit in the final five innings.
For the second consecutive game, a Cincinnati starter pitched a seven-inning one-hitter. This time it was Homer Bailey, who duplicated Bronson Arroyo's Game 2 feat while striking out 10. Bailey struck out at least one batter in every inning but the third, when San Francisco scored its first run -- without benefit of a hit, of course. Bailey hit Blanco with a pitch before walking Brandon Crawford. Vogelsong's sacrifice bunt set up Angel Pagan's sacrifice fly.
The Giants didn't come close to mustering anything resembling a hit until Marco Scutaro singled to right field with two outs in the sixth inning.
"We probably didn't swing the bats as well as we wanted to," Affeldt said. "But we got it when we needed it."