MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Giants' Flannery knows October is about execution

Giants' Flannery knows October is about execution

ST. LOUIS -- Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery has learned to enjoy life as an overachiever.

"I got this email from a guy in Washington, D.C., the other day," Flannery said on Friday. "He said 'We should have won [the National League Division Series], but we didn't hit.'"

Flannery smiled.

  Date Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 11 SF 3, STL 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 12 STL 5, SF 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14 SF 5, STL 4 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15 SF 6, STL 4 video
Gm 5 Oct. 16 SF 6, STL 3 video

"I heard the same thing after we left Texas [after the Giants beat the Rangers in the 2010 World Series], and I heard the same thing after we left Detroit [with a sweep of the Tigers in the 2012 World Series]," Flannery said. "I don't know if [the emailer] knows it, but we might have had something to do with that."

OK, the Giants aren't one of those highlight-film moments waiting to happen. The Giants don't have the blazing speed of the Royals or the explosive offense of the Orioles, who are playing in the American League Championship Series. And the Giants don't have the lineup balance of the Cardinals, their opponent in the NLCS, which opens Saturday night at Busch Stadium (5 p.m. PT, FOX).

What the Giants do have, though, is an ability to win, and an ability to enjoy their moments on baseball's October stage. They have won two of the last four World Series. They have averaged a tad more than 87 victories over the last six seasons. They have never been a preseason favorite in Las Vegas.

"When you think of the Giants, you think of the starting pitching," said reliever Javier Lopez. "You think of [Tim] Lincecum, [Matt] Cain, and now, [Madison] Bumgarner."

Sort of.

Bumgarner is going to start Game 1 and has been the ace of the Giants' staff all year. Cain, however, has been out since early August, having undergone elbow surgery to remove bone chips. Lincecum, a two-time NL Cy Young Award winner who turned 30 in June, has been relegated to the bullpen since the end of August.

The Giants, however, are back in the NLCS, having claimed an NL Wild Card spot, knocked off the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game, and then stunned the Nationals in four games in the NLDS.

Now they are in St. Louis in an NLCS matchup of the two teams that have won the most World Series championships in NL history. The Cardinals have been World Series champions 11 times, the Giants seven.

Flannery has been coaching third base for the last two titles that the Giants have won, and he cherishes every moment.

"You don't care who is favored or who isn't when you get to [the postseason]," Flannery said. "You are just excited to be here. It's what the game is all about. And you know that if you do things right, you have a chance to win. You don't have to be the biggest names in town. You just have to win the most games."

And Flannery doesn't care how the games are won.

Truth be told, as exciting as it is to be coaching third base and watching Buster Posey or Pablo Sandoval launch a walk-off home run, or Bumgarner pitch a shutout, Flannery sounds more rewarded by the fact they beat Washington, 3-2, in the fourth and deciding game of the NLDS on a wild pitch.

The Giants had the bases loaded, and Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett threw a pitch over the head of the catcher, allowing Joe Panik to score the go-ahead run.

"We lead the league in RTIs," said Flannery.

"RBIs?" he was asked.

"No, RTIs, runs thrown in," Flannery said, "and we should have had two. Posey was on third base and they were going to intentionally walk Sandoval [after the wild pitch], and I told Posey (Barrett) was going to throw another one over the catcher's head. He did."

Posey, however was tagged out trying to score.

Flannery grew up in an underdog-can-survive world.

His uncle, Hal Smith, was a catcher with the 1960 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bill Mazeroski is remembered for that World Series, hitting the only Game 7 walk-off home run in World Series history. Smith, however, capped a the five-run eighth which briefly gave the Pirates an 9-7 lead.

"Maybe that guy from Washington sent him an email, too," Flannery said with a smile.

The Pirates, after all, were outscored, 55-27, in those seven games.

Flannery turned three years old two weeks before that game, but the memories of it did shape his life.

"We had the reel-to-reel films at home, all the glasses with the players' autographs, pennants, everything you can think of," he said. "And I have my uncle. He would talk to me about what it took to succeed [in baseball], and he would write me letters.

"I took one of those letters with me when I went to the Minor Leagues. He wrote about the long bus rides, and the long season, and how people break down. He wrote that you have to overcome it. You have to rise above it.'"

And over the years, there has been good-natured kidding, too.

Flannery was in the World Series as a player with the Padres in 1984. They lost to the Tigers in five games. He returned as a coach with the Padres in 1998, and they were swept by the Yankees.

"My uncle would stick his ring finger in my face and say ,'You don't have one of these,'" Flannery recalled with a laugh, referring to that 1960 Pirates World Series championship ring. "After 2010 [and the World Series win against the Rangers], I tell him, 'I'm the other guy in the family with one of those."'

His uncle is 83 now, living in Brownsville, Tex., doing well, Flannery said, considering he has undergone 12 surgeries, most of which stem from "catching a long time. But he watches every game."

He's seen his nephew celebrate two World Series championships, so far.

He'd like to see a third.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.