Marco Scutaro appeared to be knocked out of the series in Game 2 when the diminutive second baseman was barreled over by Matt Holliday while he was attempting to turn a double play. My initial reaction was that he must have broken his leg or torn something on that brutal play.
However, Scutaro stayed in the game long enough to deliver two hits and the key two-run single in the Giants' 7-1 victory that night. He also came through with a two-run double to break open Game 6 on Sunday evening.
He finished the game 2-for-3 with a walk, and he's now hitting .458/.480/.583 with four RBIs in the National League Championship Series (NLCS).
If the Giants win the deciding Game 7 tomorrow, which remains a big if against the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals, Scutaro will be a strong candidate to win the NLCS MVP along with Pablo Sandoval (.320/.346/.600) and Ryan Vogelsong (2-0, 1.29 ERA).
If Scutaro can deliver another big hit in Game 7 in a Giants win, the award should be his despite the heroics of Vogelsong and the power surge of Sandoval.
When the Giants acquired Scutaro from Colorado before the trading deadline, there were reasons to think that he was significantly better than the .271/.324/.361 batting line he had at the time. He was near the top of the league in line-drive rate and near the bottom in strikeouts, but he was hitting into a lot of bad luck, driving down his batting average.
Coors Field normally provides a big offensive boost, but more so for power hitters. AT&T Park is a better place for a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter like Scutaro.
Other than Buster Posey, Scutaro was the Giants' MVP down the stretch. After the trade, he hit .362/.385/.473, including a .400 batting average with runners in scoring position.
Scutaro's clutch performance down the stretch was nothing new. Last season, as Rome was burning in Boston during their historic collapse, Scutaro hit .387/.438/.581 during September in a valiant attempt to keep the Red Sox afloat.
This postseason, Scutaro is hitting .318/.362/.409 with three walks against just one strike out.
The reason Scutaro continues to deliver when it matters most is because his swing mechanics allow him to remain consistent regardless of the situation.
Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens described Scutaro's hitting mechanics as perfect (h/t Alex Pavlovic, San Jose Mercury News).
Meulens said, “He’s got a short swing and he doesn’t try to do too much with a pitch. He’s just short to it and long through it. That’s what you try and teach. If I could clone him, I would do it. Those are perfect mechanics.”
Those mechanics allow Scutaro to have a flat swing, which helps him square up the ball regardless of the count. Scutaro was the hardest player in the game to strike out, and only four players hit more line drives than he did this season.
While Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt and other Giants hitters have struggled at times during the postseason, Scutaro has remained consistent. He's stayed within himself, and within his mechanics, to deliver excellent results.
He stood in against Holliday to try to turn a double play, then he played through the pain and continued to deliver key hits for the Giants throughout the series. It's been a gutsy effort thus far, and one more clutch performance will almost certainly put an NLCS MVP Award on the littlest Giants' resume.
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