Every time a team wins the World Series, people like to flip through their storybook and find the most important playoff moments.
Usually, one or two players get hot and carry a team through the postseason. But not on the Giants. Every single player made an impact, something that has become a theme with this magical team. And, as a result, there were multiple great playoff moments.
It was hard to narrow them down to 21 (don't ask), and it was hard to order them. I tried to rank them based on what was the most important and what made me, as a Giants fan, the happiest, taking close games, the magnitude of the game and much more into account.
So, with that said, I present the 21 best playoff moments from San Francisco's magical 2012 run.
I'm sorry, Gregor Blanco.
Blanco was involved in two plays that I barely left off the list, and the same goes with Tim Lincecum and Angel Pagan. Blanco's bunt in Game 2 of the World Series that set up the game-winning run was huge, and so was his home run in Game 4 of the NLDS.
Pagan also had a big blast in Game 4, and Tim Lincecum had a fist-pumping strikeout of the red-hot Ryan Ludwick to begin an incredible performance in which he earned the win. There were two on and two out, and he came in after a huge strikeout from Jose Mijares.
So, now I'll get into the top 21 plays.
The final score of Game 1 was 8-3, but it’s safe to say that one play could have completely changed the game.
When you think of Game 1, Pablo Sandoval’s three home runs will come to mind. But Blanco made his presence felt again, laying out to rob Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder of hits in the fourth and sixth inning.
Both times, runners were on base. Both times, Barry Zito was pitching. Zito was credited with twirling a gem when he allowed one run in 5.2 innings in Game 1 (getting the win), but without Blanco’s catches, at least one more run would’ve been scored.
And both times, he had to stretch his glove out and keep the ball in his mitt. So, those catches were pretty impressive, and you could argue that they were a major factor in San Francisco winning Game 1 (which they were).
Hunter Pence had finally broke his slump, as he singled, stole a base and advanced on a wild pitch to set Gregor Blanco up for another big hit.
With one out, Anibal Sanchez on the mound and the count full, Blanco was fully expecting a breaking ball from Sanchez. He got one, and it caught the inside part of the plate. Blanco blasted it into right-center field, scoring a run easily and getting him into third with a triple.
Brandon Crawford plated Blanco with a single, and that was all the Giants got. They won 2-0, meaning the game would’ve been tied without Blanco’s big swing. If Blanco hadn’t reached base, Hector Sanchez would’ve been up with two outs and a tie game. He struck out, which would’ve been the third out.
Blanco picked up his team in Game 3, and it wasn’t the only time.
This didn’t feel like a great moment when it happened, which is why it isn’t higher. But without this play, the Giants wouldn’t have won a single postseason game.
Brandon Phillips reached against Ryan Vogelsong, who looked completely vulnerable at the beginning of the game. A wild pitch brought Phillips to second, and he went for third. However, he was thrown out by Posey, who made a great throw to nab the speedy second baseman.
He picked it up cleanly off the backstop, and fired the ball right at Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval caught it, and he tagged out Phillips. Cincinnati scored one run in the first, but it would’ve been at least one more had Posey and Sandoval not hooked up to get the out.
Then, well, we all know what happened.
Barry Zito got some help from Gregor Blanco, but he definitely had a good outing in Game 1 of the World Series. However, he was yanked after throwing 81 pitches, in favor of super-sub Tim Lincecum.
Lincecum came on to face the red-hot Jhonny Peralta, who homered in the ninth inning. George Kontos, who surrendered Peralta’s home run, would have been brought in to face Peralta without Lincecum (most likely), so instead of possibly being 6-4, it stayed at 6-1.
After a near miss on his first pitch, Lincecum pounded the zone, throwing three strikes and capping off the at-bat by baffling Peralta on a wicked breaking ball. The crowd went crazy, and Lincecum gave them more reason to go crazy later.
How? By striking out five in 2.1 perfect innings and helping the Giants win Game 1.
Santiago Casilla, who can be wild at times, allowed a hit to Scott Rolen, and Ryan Hanigan almost had another one. But then, he got robbed by the man who is known for robbing people.
Hanigan had failed to get a hit against Matt Cain, San Francisco’s ace who looked unusually tired in the last at-bat. He came very close to getting one when he laced a pitch from Casilla, who did not look sharp, to left field.
It was a line drive, and Crawford saw that. He dove, somehow locking the ball in his glove. It was one of a few great plays in the postseason from Crawford, who made at least five great plays and had only one error.
And he didn't even get nominated for a Gold Glove. What a shame.
Crawford was at it again in Game 7, and while the game ended in a 9-0 score, the momentum could have easily shifted early in the game.
Kyle Lohse, the Cardinal pitcher, came up with runners on second and third in the pivotal NLCS game (during the second). One more strike from Cain would have retired Lohse, but he made a mistake, and Lohse hit a line drive that appeared to be headed for left field.
And it was. But Crawford made another outstanding play, timing his high leap perfectly to catch the ball, save two runs and possibly San Francisco's season.
Cain’s confidence remained, too. A long inning could have ensued, and he could have been yanked early. But he ended up battling through 5.2 scoreless innings and securing his fourth career postseason win.
While Crawford made a great play for the defense (in Game 7), it would take a big hit to assure the Giants of the pennant. Or, three big hits.
Lohse let the first three runners of the third inning reach, and he was lifted in favor of hard-throwing Joe Kelly. Strikeout-prone Hunter Pence stepped to the plate, but he didn’t strike out.
Instead, he hit a ball to Pete Kozma. However, it hit his bat three times, and the ball confused Kozma, spun in an odd way and slowly rolled into the outfield. Jon Jay misplayed it, allowing a third run to score and give the Giants a 5-0 lead.
Pence had been struggling all postseason. But in Game 7, he managed to get one (or three) key hits.
Sergio Romo wasn’t mowing down the Reds like he normally mows teams down, so there was concern when the powerful Jay Bruce stepped to the plate in the ninth inning of NLDS Game 5, representing the winning run.
Romo threw 12 pitches in the at-bat, and if he screwed one up, Bruce would’ve gone yard, ended San Francisco’s season and sent Cincinnati to the NLDS in dramatic fashion. But he didn’t, and on the twelfth pitch, he threw a slider that confused Bruce.
Bruce hit it softly into left field, and it had no chance of leaving the yard. Xavier Nady had to battle the Sun to make the catch, but he caught the ball. Then, Scott Rolen was all that stood in between the Giants and the NLCS.
Ryan Hanigan doesn’t have much power, but he had a good chance to tie Game 5 when he was facing Cain, who looked like he had nothing left in the tank.
Hanigan worked the count full, fouled off a pitch and prepared for another 3-2 offering. The pitch was on the outside corner, and umpire Tom Hallion could have called it either way.
He called it a strike, which was probably the right call. But Reds manager Dusty Baker didn’t make the right call when he sent Bruce, not a fast runner, to third base on a double-steal steal. Bruce hesitated on the bases, and Posey threw to Sandoval to easily complete the double-play.
Cain was then removed from the game, and Kontos got the third out of the inning. San Francisco appeared headed for an easy NLDS win, but it wasn’t like that at all.
Bruce Bochy made a questionable call when he gave the ball in Game 2 of the World Series to Madison Bumgarner, he of the 0-2 playoff record and 11.25 playoff ERA.
And, it could have easily backfired. Bumgarner got through the first inning easily, but he hit Prince Fielder and let Delmon Young hit a ball down the left field line to start the second. Gregor Blanco overthrew Crawford, the cut-off man, but luckily, Marco Scutaro backed him up.
With Fielder rumbling home, Scutaro caught the ball and threw to Posey, who swiped his glove and got Fielder’s foot. He was called out, and a big inning was prevented. Bumgarner got out of that jam and some more jams to finish with a great stat line.
So, a man with no stuff shut out the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. That was when you knew the World Series was pretty much over. But obviously, it would take some more big plays to finish it off, and the Giants delivered.
Casilla was removed after surrendering another hit in the eighth inning of the final NLDS game, and Romo, the closer, came in to try and record a huge out to end the eighth.
He got two strikes on Dioner Navorro, who isn’t known for his power, and threw a low pitch. Navorro golfed a soft liner into center field, and Pagan, who was supposed to be playing no-doubles defense, charged towards the ball at full speed.
Pagan had cheated in towards the plate, because he knew Navorro wasn’t (and still isn't) a home run hitter. And those extra inches allowed him to sprint to the ball, dive, catch the ball, and pump his fist while still on the ground, in shock that he had caught the ball.
Then, it felt like the Giants would easily win the series. But, it didn’t come easily.
Lance Lynn looked unhittable in the first three innings of NLCS Game 5, but in the fourth, he collapsed.
Scutaro and Sandoval singled to lead off the fourth, which were the first two balls hit into the outfield. Posey struck out, and Pence hit a double play ball. So, it looked like Lynn would give the Cardinals some more momentum and get out of a jam.
But shortstop Pete Kozma thought second baseman Daniel Descalso would cover the base, so he got a late break to second when he realized otherwise. Lynn hurried the throw, and it was low and bounced off the base. Scutaro scored when the ball went into the outfield, giving the Giants a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Brandon Crawford and Barry Zito singled (Zito's was a bunt hit) to drive in a total of three more runs, capping off the inning and sending the NLCS back to San Francisco.
Ryan Theriot's base hit led to this.
When Marco Scutaro was traded to San Francisco, Ryan Theriot, a man who finished the season with a respectable .270 batting average, was sent to the bench.
But he saw some playing time in the regular season and in the playoffs, starting occasionally (until Pablo Sandoval returned from an injury) and pinch-hitting often. Eventually, he got to start a World Series game, replacing Hector Sanchez, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts the previous night, at designated hitter.
Theriot hit a ball well in the second, but Andy Dirks made a nice catch to prevent a run. Theriot didn't get a hit in the first nine innings, and Phil Coke, who had struck out all seven batters he faced in the World Series, got two strikes on Theriot.
The hard-throwing southpaw attempted to blow an outside fastball by Theriot, but he couldn't. Theriot hit a flare into right field, where no one had any chance to catch it. And, we all know what happened next.
Scott Rolen is known for being a great defensive third baseman. So, it was a bit of a shock when he cost the Reds their best chance to win the NLDS.
With two on and two out, Joaquin Arias stepped to the plate. Inconsistent pitcher Jonathan Broxton threw a bad pitch, and Ryan Hanigan couldn't catch it, allowing Buster Posey and Hunter Pence to move to second and third.
Arias hit a chopper to third base, which looked like a routine play for Rolen. However, the ball took a tough hop, and Rolen bobbled it. He recovered and got off a good throw, but the speedy Arias hustled to first.
The utility shortstop beat the throw, and Sergio Romo slammed the door in the bottom of the inning. San Francisco's comeback had started, and they weren't about to stop.
Rolen had a chance to make up for his error, and it was certainly possible, given that Great American Park is so small. But, against Romo, that chance was low.
Romo got two strikes before Rolen fouled a pitch off. Posey called for a slider from Romo on the outside corner, where righties have almost no chance. But, when Romo misses with his location, he is hittable.
And Romo did miss, throwing the ball up and in. But the ball had good movement, and Rolen blew his final chance. He swung and missed. Romo danced. The Giants celebrated, and they knew that they had to win only eight games to capture another championship.
Which they did. All thanks to Romo finishing off the Reds in Game 5 of the NLDS.
Okay, so maybe Marco Scutaro didn't take out Matt Holliday. But he did get Holliday out to end the NLCS.
Holliday attempted to take out Scutaro (well, we Giants fans think he did) when he slid into second base in Game 2, as his slide seemed a bit harder than a normal slide to try and break up a double play. Scutaro wasn't hurt badly, and Holliday actually missed Game 6 due to injury.
So, when Javier Lopez walked Carlos Beltran and Romo, who had looked dominant in pitching three perfect innings in the series, came in to face Holliday, Giants fans immediately realized what was happening.
They wanted a strikeout, and when they got two strikes on him, that appeared very likely. But Holliday was jammed on an inside pitch, and he popped it up to Scutaro. In the heavy rain, Scutaro caught the ball, ending the series.
Buster Posey was not having success in the playoffs, and he looked lost while facing Max Scherzer in two previous at-bats. But, he didn't look lost with a runner on in the sixth.
Scherzer threw a change-up down the middle, and Posey saw it. He hit it down the left field line, into the heavy wind. The wind fought the ball, and the ball won. It went a few rows deep, giving the Giants a 3-2 lead.
It felt like the Giants couldn't lose then. The MVP who had come through so many times in the regular season and at crucial times in the postseason had come through again, redeeming himself by crushing the ball. Since Detroit had cold bats, it felt like that home run would win the World Series.
Did it? No. Did it make Giants fans happy and play a part in San Francisco winning Game 4? Definitely.
In the first game at AT&T Park, three home runs were hit by one player (Kevin Elster). 12 years later, the first Giant hit three home runs at AT&T Park; in the World Series, off of Justin Verlander.
Verlander threw a high, 0-2 fastball that Sandoval got a great swing on. He hit it into right-center field, the deepest part of the park, for a home run. He hit an outside fastball the other way for a two-run shot in the third, and golfed a pitch from Al Alburquerque into center for a home run in the fifth.
Sandoval gave the Giants momentum, and he was the reason why the Giants won Game 1. 4 of his 24 playoff hits (which set a franchise record for hits in a single postseason) came in Game 1, with three of them being bombs.
When Sandoval gets hot, he can dominate and hit any pitch into the seats. And, unfortunately for the Tigers, he got red-hot in the World Series.
Even though Brandon Crawford and Angel Pagan had brought home runs earlier in the inning, Reds fans were on their feet when Mat Latos got two strikes on Posey.
The star pitcher, who has publicly expressed his hatred for San Francisco and the Giants, had to get Posey out to work his way out of a bases-loaded jam. So, he attempted to jam Posey with an inside fastball.
Instead, he missed over the plate. Posey crushed the ball, and it hit just over Latos' name on the scoreboard, and just under the upper deck. Posey trotted around the bases, thinking he sealed the win with his titanic bomb.
San Francisco felt like they didn't need it at the time. But we all know they wouldn't have won a postseason series without his shot.
Marco Scutaro didn't do all that well in the NLDS, but he was the NLCS MVP. However, he had gone cold in the World Series, and he was facing Phil Coke in the tenth inning.
Theriot was on second base, and Scutaro had worked the count to 3-1. Coke threw a high, outside fastball, and Scutaro was on the ball. He lined it into center field, and Giants fans were praying that it would fall in front of the charging Austin Jackson.
It did, and Theriot charged home. He scored the winning run, and Scutaro had touched Giants fans once again. He didn't get a great pitch to hit, but he took what Coke gave him and came up with the biggest hit of the postseason.
His hit was probably the biggest play of the postseason, too. But there was still one moment that was better.
Miguel Cabrera does not get confused much, especially when he steps to the plate in a crucial situation. But Romo confused the Triple Crown winner.
Romo got Austin Jackson and Don Kelly to chase some nasty sliders down and out of the strike zone, and he got Cabrera to do the same on a 1-1 pitch. With two strikes, Romo threw two pitches out of the strike zone, one that was fouled off and one that was taken for a ball.
Posey wanted Romo to try and get Cabrera to chase. Romo shook him off, and daringly threw his two-seam fastball down the middle. It only went 89 miles per hour, but it confused Cabrera completely.
The ball went over the heart of the plate. Posey caught it and didn't wait for strike three to be called. He ran to Romo and jumped into his arms, and everyone else followed Posey. A celebration took place in Detroit and in the Bay Area, as Giants celebrated.
The likable Romo, only 70 inches and 185 pounds, celebrated. He posted an ERA of 0.84 during the postseason, and the team celebrated with him. People thought he wasn't a big-game pitcher, and he silenced those critics. And, it couldn't have come in a better way.