The outrageously advantageous situation the San Francisco Giants now find themselves staring down will not be taken for granted. The Giants have been here before, rather, on the flip side. The orange and black erased a three games-to-one deficit against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2012 National League Championship Series, an objective the red birds will now try to accomplish on their own. Even though the Giants don’t often swallow sour gulps of their own throat-choking medicine, they must seize the opportunity and clinch the NL pennant on their home turf.
The Giants understand the Cardinals are not going to quit, which is why it’s crucial for Madison Bumgarner to continue his postseason dominance on Thursday night. St. Louis may not be in a favorable spot heading into Game 5 of the NLCS, but it’s likely they feel similar to how the Giants felt after being pummeled 8-3 while falling behind three games-to-one in the ’12 LCS. If the Cardinals are able to beat Bumgarner, they’ll have the type of confidence that consumes 1.3-million square feet, or the approximate lot size of Busch Stadium.
Oct 15, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Santiago Casilla (46) celebrates with catcher Buster Posey (28) after beating the St. Louis Cardinals in game four of the 2014 NLCS playoff baseball game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The Giants don’t face a virtual must-win situation in terms of their opponent having a chance to even the series and reclaim home field advantage, but they do have a chance to avoid handing over that strange thing called hope to the Cardinals. It’s important to remember that St. Louis has won an equal number of pennants as the Giants over the past four seasons (2). They know how to get it done in October, and even though the Giants have been better to date, this series is far from over.
AT&T Park will be ready to explode on Thursday night. Forty-two thousand strong will be hanging on every pitch, making noise at decibel levels that will be heard from South City. Giants fans know just how important slamming the door on the Cardinals is, especially when they have them at wits end. Nobody knows exactly how to beat the Giants in October. Over their past three postseason runs, it hasn’t happened.
The Giants have been written off several times this year, including by yours truly. Midsummer struggles gave way to depth issues that seemed insolvable. The struggles of the starting pitching staff after Bumgarner appeared impossible to fix by the simple addition of Jake Peavy. Nagging and eventual permanent injuries to Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro were bound to cripple the lineup. An awkward concussion to Brandon Belt and a nasty oblique strain to Michael Morse made it seem like another magical even-year triumph just wasn’t possible.
Aug 31, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) pitches during the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
But that’s what the Giants do. They do what other teams can’t do, and more times than not, it’s not because other teams aren’t good enough. The overused expressions of “camaraderie” and team “synergy” have been frequently linked to this band of Giants, a recurring cliché that often elicits rolling eyes and jeers of, “Yeah, right.” But there is something about the Giants in October that cannot be infringed upon. They just don’t lose in the postseason.
For seven consecutive postseason series, the Giants have been unbeatable. They’ll look to push that impressive run of success to eight against a Cardinals club that will come out fiery against Bumgarner, who owns a shiny 2.58 ERA and 1.028 WHIP with 55 strikeouts in 59.1 innings of work over 10 postseason appearances. For the Giants to reclaim the pennant, the can’t let up off the gas pedal. It’s full throttle to the finish line, a feat the Giants have become all too familiar with.