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Senior Baseball Columnist

Camaraderie, sacrifice, preparation help make Giants elite franchise


Newcomer Marco Scutaro (center) gives the Giants a lift, and Ryan Theriot thrives in a new role. (Getty Images)  
Newcomer Marco Scutaro (center) gives the Giants a lift, and Ryan Theriot thrives in a new role. (Getty Images)  

DETROIT -- It ended the way it had to end, with Marco Scutaro (who else?) shooting a fastball onto a wide-open patch of Michigan grass.

It ended the way it should have ended, with the man who this summer lost his job to Scutaro racing home from second on the hit with the winning run.

It ended the only way it could have ended after this postseason run, with one of baseball's oldest franchises planting its flag as baseball's newest measuring stick.

With a frosty 4-3, 10-inning Game 4 deep freeze of the Tigers, the Giants iced their second World Series title in three seasons.

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One, two, three, sweep.

Officially and formally, now, they are Giants among men, Giants among baseball franchises, and the Giants of 2012.

This was no fluke. Every bit of it was earned.

"It's only fitting," bench coach Ron Wotus said. "Ryan Theriot gets the hit, and Scutaro drives him home.

"Scutaro took his place when Theriot was playing great for us. And you know what? You didn't hear a peep out of Theriot."

These are the Giants. This is what they do.

Crown them.

When Barry Zito pitched himself off the 2010 postseason roster, you didn't hear a peep then, either. All you heard was Zito clapping in the dugout as loudly as anyone.

When Tim Lincecum pitched himself out of the rotation and into the bullpen this year, no peeps. Only the roar of the AT&T Park crowd every time Lincecum trotted from the dugout to the bullpen, impending doom on deck for opposing hitters.

The reason the Giants were the last team standing in 2012 is because this is a championship franchise on so many levels beyond the outward proof, the Commissioner's Trophy that general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy accepted Sunday evening.

The Giants proved it in 2010, had the tools at their disposal in 2011 until Buster Posey was lost for the season in late May, and then came roaring back in 2012.

Two World Series titles in three seasons is the stuff of legend.

Nobody has won so many in such a short span since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000. The Red Sox won two in four seasons, in 2004 and again in 2007, and we'll talk about those teams forever. The Cardinals won two in six years, in 2006 and 2011, and we already know what a special franchise that is.

These Giants are every bit as elite as anybody ... and more than most everybody.

In San Francisco, Sabean, the game's longest-tenured general manager, pulls Cody Ross and Javier Lopez out of the air to help put together one World Series title and finds Scutaro in Colorado to seal another.

Meantime, Bochy methodically moves toward Cooperstown one step at a time. He now has taken three different clubs to the World Series and won two of them. He is 22nd on the all-time games managed list (2,898) and 23rd on the all-time wins list (1,454). Just one more colossal blunder by that backwater baseball town in San Diego to ever allow Bochy to escape city limits.

"I'm numb," Bochy said. "What these guys did is truly amazing. It shows what 25 guys can accomplish playing for each other and for the fans. That's the only way to get it done.

"We weren't supposed to be here, and we got here. We weren't supposed to win, and these guys found a way to get it done."

Do not underestimate the culture created by Bochy, Wotus, pitching coach Dave Righetti, hitting coach Hensley Meulens and third-base coach Tim Flannery, among others. They do things quietly, correctly and without a lot of attention.

What it leads to are moments like this October, and like the 10th inning that swept away a thoroughly overmatched Tigers team.

Theriot, slotted in the eighth hole as the designated hitter, dropped a base hit onto the right-center turf against a reliever (Phil Coke) who had struck out every one of the seven batters he faced in this World Series. Theriot took a 93 mph fastball for a called strike, then took three consecutive balls before pouncing on another fastball.

What was he thinking?

"Don't get to a breaking ball," Theriot said. "When I get to a guy who is a legitimate strikeout pitcher, and obviously Coke has his fastball, I'm picking one pitch, and that's what I'm going with. I've done that my whole career and it's worked out pretty good.

"I didn't want to get a slider or curve."

He's not exactly your prototypical DH. But Hector Sanchez struck out three times in four at-bats in Game 3, and given Bochy's magic touch, we should have expected big things from Theriot in Game 4.

"I'm surprised he didn't hit three homers," Wotus cracked, a reference to Pablo Sandoval's epic Game 1. "He said he was going to."

The single did just fine. Because after shortstop Brandon Crawford bunted him to second, in stepped Scutaro.

From second base, instead of muttering evil things about a mean job snatcher, Theriot simply was hoping Scutaro would work the count to two strikes.

"Because when he gets to two strikes, he's as tough as it gets," Theriot said.

Theriot has been in this position before. Well, several similar positions. He scored the winning run in the College World Series when he was at Louisiana State. He had a regular job in St. Louis last year for four months before Rafael Furcal showed up and knocked him out of the lineup. Like Scutaro this year.

"Sometimes, guys have to make sacrifices," Theriot said. "The way we view each other, it's not about me. If I'm selfish and I make a big deal about something ... this is such a long ride, it's not fair to the rest of the guys if I make it about me."

So Theriot -- whose Cardinals, you might recall, won last year's World Series (and on the exact same date, Oct. 28) -- worked the biggest secondary lead he could get off second base, watched Scutaro do his thing and took off.

And what do you think Flannery was thinking about as he waved Theriot home from second?

Not about the fitting Theriot-Scutaro tag team.

No, he was thinking about how Theriot got to second.

"I was more excited about Crawford's bunt," Flannery said. "All year, we've worked with him on his bunting. We said to him, 'You're going to be in a situation in the World Series, game on the line, fans screaming, and you're going to have to slow everything down. You're going to have to breathe.'"

Absolutely true story.

"We would go out probably once a homestand and practice bunting," Crawford, the rookie shortstop, said. "He would say, 'All right, it's the World Series and all the fans are yelling at you. Now you're going to have to slow things down and get the bunt down.' "

And you wonder how it is that these Giants have won two titles in three years?

They miss nothing.

"We play a different kind of baseball," Theriot said. "It's a throwback.

"You're not going to see a lot of home runs and six- or seven-run innings. You're going to see great pitching, great defense, great baserunning, disciplined at-bats. Our coaches are very, very good here. They do a great job."

"That's our slingshots and rocks," Flannery quipped. "That's what we fight with."

They might be Giants, but they're no Goliaths.

This was no fluke. These Giants, through the third inning of Game 4 on Sunday night, did not trail for 56 consecutive postseason innings. They won three in a row in the division series in Cincinnati after falling into an 0-2 hole. They won three in a row against the Cardinals after falling behind 3 games to 1.

They came back strong. They finished the postseason with seven consecutive victories, based partly on the early October holes they kept falling into.

"It was talked about quite a bit," Theriot said. "We're going to take the same mentality that we've been taking: win today. Because if we don't, we have Justin Verlander tomorrow. And we don't want to give him the chance to do what we did. Because we knew it could be done."

It's what made them so dangerous. Having been there, they knew how to make sure the team across the field couldn't get there.

It was not a classic World Series, or anything within six ZIP codes of it. But we will remember Pablo Sandoval's three home runs in Game 1. We'll never forget the Giants' shutdown pitching, from Zito to Madison Bumgarner to Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain. We'll remember Tin Lincecum, Ace Reliever. And who can forget Gregor Blanco doubling off the third-base bag and rolling a bunt within a cat's whisker of going foul ... that stayed fair?

In San Francisco, they'll never forget. A city that had never called a World Series winner its own until 2010 now, suddenly, has an embarrassment of riches. What Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Felipe Alou and Will Clark couldn't do -- and all of them are regulars, still, around AT&T Park -- Posey, Sandoval, Lincecum and Cain have figured out.

"We've had a lot of great players come through here, and some great teams," Sabean said. "It just speaks for what the organization does in general to keep our alumni around. Our living legends are constantly with us either in person, or pulling for us really hard, so it's really a tribute to them that we're able to do it in their name.

"It's an emotional time, believe me."

They did not enter this season as favorites. Heck, they did not enter October as favorites.

They are not big, and they are not intimidating

"In stature, no," Theriot said. "In will and desire, yeah.

"I would say we are Giants."

Crown them, twice.


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