The Giants did the improbable by stealing three straight road games to win the NLDS.
Improbable comeback, completed.
The San Francisco Giants rallied from two games down by winning three straight road games to advance to the NLCS.
Just four wins away from a return to the World Series, the Giants have a few reasons why they will represent the National League in the Fall Classic.
After a 9-0 loss in Game 2, the Giants faced a nearly insurmountable task of beating the Reds three straight times on the road. The Reds hadn’t lost three straight home games all season, but somehow it happened.
It must be October.
San Francisco got quality outings from Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum while Matt Cain redeemed himself with a 5 2/3 inning performance to give the Giants the series win.
Cincinnati was left scratching their heads. Posting a 50-31 home record during the regular season, the Reds' season ended with an epic collapse. The Reds now prepare for a long offseason of questions and speculation while the Giants prepare for their NLCS opponent―either Washington or St. Louis.
In the mean time, San Francisco is preparing for a return trip to the World Series, the first since winning it all in 2010.
Here is why they will represent the National League in the 2012 Fall Classic.
Posey's grand slam clinched the Giants' NLDS win.
The Giants have a very similar roster this season to the one that brought a World Series Championship to the Bay Area in 2010.
One of the most important pieces to that 2010 puzzle was catcher Buster Posey.
In his first season as the Giants full-time catcher, Posey hit .305 with a 3.7 Wins Above Replacement. In his first postseason, the Florida State product hit .288 with a .744 OPS.
During the 2010 World Series, Posey commanded a dominating pitching staff that threw two shutouts and another one run performance against the hard-hitting Texas Rangers.
Posey is having an NL MVP-type season after returning from a broken leg in 2011. His .336 batting average was nine points higher than anyone else in the league.
The fourth-year catcher hit a monster grand slam in Game 5 to catapult the Giants to the NLCS. If he maintains any sort of production in the NLCS, the Giants will be tough to stop.
Matt Cain anchors one of the deepest pitching staffs in the MLB.
San Francisco’s team earned run average of 3.68 placed them fifth in the NL.
Depending on the result of Game 5 between the Nationals and Cardinals, the Giants could have the best pitching staff remaining (Washington’s league leading 3.33 ERA may not make it past St. Louis and their 3.71 ERA).
With Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong in the starting rotation and a solid bullpen with Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo, the Giants have very few holes in their pitching staff.
San Francisco’s depth allowed them to recover after suffering a 9-0 blowout loss in Game 2, only to rattle off three straight wins. Game 2 appeared to serve as a wake-up call to the staff that has been extremely effective since.
With momentum and the rust shaken off, the Giants’ pitching staff has the arms to lead them through the NLCS, regardless of their opponent.
After all, they just got through a solid hitting Reds team.
Lincecum found his groove in game 4.
Tim Lincecum struggled mightily this season, sparking his removal from the rotation for the postseason.
After a short outing (2.2 innings) by Barry Zito in Game 4, Lincecum was called on for long relief.
“The Freak” was dialed in.
He threw 4.1 innings, giving up one earned run while throwing 76 percent of his pitches for strikes. The man the Giants counted on in the 2010 season looked like he had returned to form.
It’s a small sample, only one outing, but it showed the baseball world that maybe Tim Lincecum is back. The pressure was on. He could have imploded, as his 5.18 ERA in the regular season would suggest, but he didn’t.
Lincecum has 6.1 total innings of work this postseason with a 1.47 ERA and a 0.47 WHIP.
If "The Freak" is truly back, the Giants will be back in the World Series.
Bruce Bochy and the Giants are all smiles after the NLDS, with little to believe they won't be after the NLCS.
Often lost in the shuffle of the postseason success—in the midst of grand slams and walk-off wins—are the people who create the lineups and pull the strings. It’s easy to forget the managers who put their teams in situations to win.
Joe Girardi’s decision to pinch-hit Raul Ibanez for Alex Rodriguez was one of the more prominent decisions of any manager this postseason.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy has quietly put his team in an advantageous spot, with extra rest before the NLCS.
He pulled the right strings with Zito, Lincecum and the rest of the bullpen. He aligned a pitching staff that found ways to get wins. He set up a lineup that scored 16 runs on the road to clinch the series.
Bochy is slowly but surely staking his claim as one of the best managers in the game.
With a World Series title in 2010 and an opportunity at another in 2012, the Bay Area could be celebrating again with Bochy leading the way.
Pagan's home run in game 4 set the tone for the Giants epic comeback.
Giants outfielder Angel Pagan provided a spark in Game 4 with a leadoff home run off Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake. Pagan reached base four times that game, plating two runs and scoring two.
The Giants led 5-2 heading into the sixth inning, a deficit too large for Cincinnati to overcome. Then Game 5 happened, where Pagan went 0-of-5 but had an RBI and run scored on the Buster Posey grand slam.
"I just can't put it into words," Pagan said (via ESPN.com), his voice growing more and more hoarse with each word. "It's just perfect. It's the way it was meant to be. This team is so close. We're like brothers. We play for each other. We lift each other. And that's why we were able to do this. I just can't believe it."
The Giants have lifted themselves back to the NLCS for the second time in three seasons. After missing the playoffs last year, San Francisco has a new identity, a healthy roster and the experience to return to the World Series.