Once the final from Atlanta trickled into the Giants' dugout in the second inning here on the season's final Sunday, with the boys Aubrey Huff(ing) and puffing and trying (again) to blow down the Padres for good, the scenarios dictated that San Francisco's season would roll on at least until Tuesday.
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One-game playoff in San Diego on Monday? Another one potentially in Atlanta on Tuesday? Let's see, what could Wednesday possibly bring? A breath-holding contest in Philadelphia? Chili cook-off in Cincinnati?
Far as the Giants were concerned, all but one of the scenarios could take a flying leap into McCovey Cove.
"Aw, jeez," manager Bruce Bochy moaned following San Francisco's 3-0 escape-hatch win that handed them their first NL West title since 2003.
The Giants were pouring champagne. Their fans were screaming in the streets.
Their manager was in a back room of his office, surrounded by bookshelves containing black scouting binders, glass of white wine in front of him, about a day from pulling those scouting reports on the Braves and diving in before Game 1 on Thursday.
"We knew we were going to play this game like the seventh game of the World Series," Bochy continued. "That's too tough a road if you've got to go that way."
Together with general manager Brian Sabean, who obviously must be a whiz at changing tires in record time on roadsides given his stellar work in rebuilding this team on the fly, Bochy made one crucial decision after the Giants dropped Saturday's game: There would be no packing of suitcases and bringing them to the yard Sunday.
If the Giants were to lose Sunday and get swept by the Padres, thus forcing them to travel to San Diego for a one-game playoff Monday afternoon, they were simply going to send their players home to pack late afternoon Sunday, tell them to be back in a couple of hours and fly to San Diego then.
Out amid the champagne, starter Barry Zito, who last played in the postseason with Oakland in 2006 and signed the infamous $126 million deal with San Francisco that winter hoping for just this kind of moment across the Bay, agreed.
|Clutch hitting and solid pitching help the Giants punch their ticket to the playoffs. (AP)|
It was a yank-the-emergency-oxygen-cord kind of weekend.
Fifth pitch in the bottom of the first, Andres Torres whacked a Mat Latos fastball the opposite way, smack down the left-field line. The ball clearly landed right on the chalk, a soft cloud of white dust physical proof of a fair ball.
Except, third-base ump Mike Everitt called it foul.
Same umpire whose strike zone had caused such a ruckus a day earlier that caused Bochy's ejection after the sixth inning.
Third-base coach Tim Flannery, who had scampered onto the line behind Everitt for a view of where the ball landed, about had a coronary right there on the spot.
"I was yelling so loud it cut off my oxygen," Flannery said. "I almost fainted. Oh, man."
"I was just shocked," Bochy said. "I thought, 'No way this can be happening.' It cost us a run. At least he did do the right thing by talking to the other umpires, but I was just stunned.
"I didn't feel like leaving today's game in the first inning."
But two innings later, still no score, for the first time this weekend, things took a sharp right turn in the Giants' favor.
"I know," Wilson, the Giants closer, said. "I saw it.
"He looked right at me," said Flannery, the man who flashed it.
So what did Flannery say when Sanchez arrived at third about 30 seconds later?
"I said, 'Breathe'," Flannery said. "I didn't say he missed nothin'."
Sanchez would score two batters later, when Freddy Sanchez singled, and the young left-hander was so good -- as were the five lockdown relievers who followed him -- that his run was all the Giants would need.
Giants and Braves, last two in.
They fought so hard. And on the last day, scenarios be damned, it all came together.
"Oh God," Giants ace Tim Lincecum said. "That's why they call it torture baseball, right?"
It's what they've been calling Giants baseball around here all summer. This was a team that dropped out of first place on May 7 and didn't reclaim it for good until Sept. 26.
When they did return, it was with several new, cool turbocharged parts, from the kid Posey (recalled from the minors May 29) to Pat Burrell (signed May 29 after Tampa Bay released him), Mike Fontenot (trade with the Cubs Aug. 11), Jose Guillen (designated for assignment by Kansas City on Aug. 5), Cody Ross (waiver claim from Florida Aug. 23) and relievers Javier Lopez (trade with Pittsburgh in July) and Ramon Ramirez (trade with Boston on July 31).
"Every single guy we had on this team, every single move our general manager made was perfect," Wilson said. "The entire thing.
"That's why we're here right now."
The Giants had not won a division title since Barry Bonds retired. They have never won a World Series since moving to San Francisco in 1958.
Now, with this nicely jelled and very dangerous bunch, who knows?
The scenarios shrunk Sunday. The stakes soared.
"I've said two or three times: There is this crazy spirit about these guys," Flannery said. " Carlos Santana [the legendary guitarist, not the Indians catcher] said you win with a collection of intangibles.
"I don't want to hear what they can't do. Each guy brings a different gift. There's a spirit that keeps going. They're resilient. It doesn't matter what's happened.
"I love this team as much as any team I've been on. I'd lose with them. So to be able to win with them ... it's all a different kind of love."