The Giants' postseason winning streak reached an NL-record number as they accomplished the feat of capturing Game 1 of a best-of-five series on the road. These are related developments.
"I think we tapped into our postseason experience," Romo said. "There's that little extra thing in our chemistry -- that focus, that determination -- that separates postseason games from regular-season games. Everything seems to matter in the playoffs. We've had our backs against the wall in tough environments against tough pitching and tough lineups. It enables us to stick together."
The Giants were unfazed by the test of facing Stephen Strasburg, the NL's co-leader in strikeouts who ended the regular season with a streak of 20 consecutive scoreless innings. They collected eight hits and struck out just twice against the right-hander as he lasted two batters into the sixth inning. But San Francisco squandered more scoring chances than it converted, going 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Fortunately for the Giants, they reciprocated this frustration. Washington loaded the bases in the sixth inning on ex-Giant Nate Schierholtz's pinch-hit double and a pair of walks -- the first to Jayson Werth, which finished Peavy, and the second to Adam LaRoche, the only batter Javier Lopez faced. In came Strickland, who made all of nine September regular-season appearances after spending most of the year at Double-A Richmond. He threw ball one to Ian Desmond before firing three fastballs in a row past him at ascending velocities -- 98 mph, 99, 100 -- for the inning-ending strikeout.
"That was the game-changer," Affeldt said.
Asked if he considered calling for an offspeed pitch from Strickland, catcher Buster Posey said dryly, "I thought about it."
Said Strickland, "The fastball's obviously my best pitch, so I had to go with what's best."
Strickland proved that he's fallible by allowing a pair of seventh-inning homers, Bryce Harper's titanic upper-deck clout and Asdrubal Cabrera's drive into the right-field bullpen. But Panik prevented a two-out rally from developing by diving to snare Denard Span's grounder before throwing to first for the out.
Earlier, Peavy made a mockery of his postseason past by yielding a single in addition to Schierholtz's double and walking three batters, issuing each free pass with two outs. He entered the game with a lifetime record of 0-3 and a 9.27 ERA in five postseason starts.
"Peavy was unbelievable," Harper said. "I love his mentality."
A look at the calendar would have revealed what was in store for the Giants. It was Oct. 3, a date distinguished by several notable triumphs and moments in franchise history -- Bobby Thomson's homer in 1951, the Game 3 playoff win over the Dodgers in 1962, the Joe Morgan game in 1982 and the division-clinching victory over San Diego in 2010.
The Giants began adding this one to the list by opening the scoring with an unearned run in the third inning. After Travis Ishikawa singled, Peavy pushed a bunt toward first baseman LaRoche, who threw to second base in a force-play attempt. Ishikawa beat the throw, as a video review requested by manager Bruce Bochy confirmed.
One out later, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos committed a passed ball, advancing the runners and making it easier for Ishikawa to score on Panik's single to center field.
San Francisco struck again in the fourth. Hunter Pence forced out Pablo Sandoval at second base but, as usual, hustled hard enough to beat the relay to first base and prevent a double play. Given the freedom to run on his own, Pence stole second on Strasburg's 1-2 pitch to Brandon Belt, an unusual count for an attempted theft.
Having singled in the second inning, Pence explained that he timed Strasburg's delivery: "I tried to feel out a little rhythm and just kind of gambled on one, because he was pretty quick to home plate and I happened to get there."
Belt made the most of Pence's ploy by singling him home.
Panik tripled off the left-center-field wall to open the seventh and came home on Posey's single off reliever Craig Stammen's glove.
Next up for the Giants is a Game 2 collision Saturday (2:30 p.m. PT on FOX Sports 1) with Washington right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who no-hit Miami in his previous start last Sunday.
"Those guys are not going to lay down whatsoever," Romo said of the Nationals. "Their starter, he's no joke."