Until Thursday, the Giants had undergone a power outage during the National League Championship Series. But in Game 5, they used three home runs -- one apiece from rookie Joe Panik, pinch-hitter Michael Morse and Ishikawa.
Few pundits expected the Giants to win anything this season, but no one can measure heart. Just before Spring Training, I ranked the teams in the National League West, and I put the Giants third. They didn't have the most balanced roster in the division. But I wouldn't bet against the Giants knowing that manager Bruce Bochy is an expert at getting the most out of his players.
Early in spring, Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro injured his back. Because of his advanced age for a middle infielder, not many baseball people thought he would be able to come back. Since coming to San Francisco in July 2012, Scutaro had been a valuable player to the Giants, clearly difficult to replace.
In April no one could beat the Giants although they didn't have a productive second baseman and their projected ace, Matt Cain, was injured. Cain, when he was able to pitch, didn't perform the way his team expected. After the All-Star break, Cain couldn't pitch any more with elbow pain, and he had season-ending surgery.
In early May, the Dodgers' Paul Maholm hit first baseman Brandon Belt's thumb and broke it. His broken thumb required surgery, and he returned just before the All-Star break. A month later Belt was hit in the face during batting practice and missed time with concussion symptoms, and not many thought Belt would return for the postseason. While he was out, the Giants offense was significantly weakened.
At the beginning of the season, 38-year-old Tim Hudson pitched better than any other starter in the National League. He continued dominating until August when he developed a hip problem -- not bad enough to land him on the disabled list but enough to affect his performance. In his last start during the regular season, he began looking like himself, and his dominance has continued into the postseason. This is the first time during his 18-year career that he will go to the World Series.
Everyone knows a team goes as far as its starting rotation carries it. The Giants had instability in their rotation during the middle of the season to go along with a weak offense. Eventually, Tim Lincecum's ineffectiveness sent him to the bullpen, where he has been rarely used.
But general manager Brian Sabean took a chance on Jake Peavy, who had struggled with the Boston Red Sox. The trade didn't require the Giants to give up any of their good young prospects, and it reunited Peavy with Bochy, his first major league manager. Peavy, back in the NL West where he has always been most comfortable, began to look like his old self.
Madison Bumgarner, the NLCS MVP Award winner, took over being the ace of the starting rotation. He delivered whenever the Giants needed a big win.
As for the Giants' offense, Angel Pagan, the offensive catalyst for the, had been battling a bulging disc in his back since May, limiting his playing time. When he played the Giants usually won, and when he didn't, they lost. During the last week of September, he had to undergo surgery to remove the problematic disc, making him unavailable for the playoffs. Most baseball people believed the Giants would be eliminated quickly due to their lack of offense.
In the NLCS, the main difference between the Giants and the Cardinals was the defense and the performance of the bullpen. The Giants made almost every play, while the Cardinals appeared a bit nervous when they needed to make a simple play with the game on the line. The Giants' bullpen held the Cardinals silent at AT&T Park. However, the Cardinals bullpen, which is filled with flamethrowers, became walk-happy when called upon.
Once again, baseball proves that having excellent fundamentals is necessary to succeed in the postseason. The Cardinals lacked this during the NLCS, but the Giants didn't.