Saturday evening had a magical feel from the beginning. After the Los Angeles Dodgers lost, everyone in the park knew the Giants wouldn’t let this one get away. During pregame the players laughed and joked just like any other day, but today was different. The pieces began to fall into place and the crowd wasn’t going home without the N.L. West title.
Wired with electricity generated by the stadium noise, a steady Madison Bumgarner (16-10) lead the way for the San Francisco Giants clinching a playoff berth Saturday night by defeating the San Diego Padres 8-4.
Bumgarner picked up his 16th victory of the season striking out six and allowing three runs in five and two-thirds innings. Not to mention the RBI single he slapped up the middle in the 2nd inning.
“Whenever (Bumgarner) is on the mound we feel like we have a good chance to win,” Ryan Vogelsong said about his teammate.
It feels like ancient history when the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for a whole arsenal of all-star talent and were considered a powerhouse in the N.L. Well, those days have passed and the Giants will finish out the season in first place above the struggling Dodgers.
The suspension of Melky Cabrera also forced this team to fight adversity. The players could’ve easily mailed it in and use the loss of the All-Star MVP as an excuse. Instead many of them rose to the occasion, but none more than Angel Pagan (1-4, 2 runs). Since August 1st Pagan has quickly silenced any conversations of the Melky void, batting .325 while leading the N.L. in doubles and triples.
“We lost one of the best hitters on the team, we kept focused,” Infielder Pablo Sandoval remarked. “It’s not just one guy, all the guys do the little things to win the games.”
Pagan is not the only spark at the top of the order making this possible. Marco Scutaro (3-5, 3 RBI) has continued to show that he was the best addition to the N.L. West, hitting .361 since joining the team. This duo has solidified the top of the lineup.
The explosion of offense continued for the Giants Saturday. Buster Posey (0-3, RBI) and Hunter Pence (2-3, RBI) both capitalized early with sac flies in the first to bring the Major League leading total to 59. Scutaro continued his excellence in orange and black by knocking in two runs on a single in the fourth and then by singling in Pagan in the sixth, which has become familiar scene the last couple of months.
In the ninth, there was a beard to be feared on the mound to end the night. But tonight his name was Sergio Romo. With each strike thrown, the crowd became closer and closer to the final eruption. As soon as Pagan caught the fly ball for out number three, the stadium was jumping and screaming in joy.
“Everything is coming together at the right time. Just like 2010,” Shawn Dunston said afterwards.
San Francisco is clicking on all cylinders at the right time. They are now 6-0 on this 10-game home stand so far and seemed to become an offensive juggernaut as well. Those days of pitching well and hoping to scratch across a couple runs to stay in the game are a thing of the past, at least for now. Scoring 37 runs in three games is a good ingredient for winning baseball.
However, managing for Bruce Bochy the rest of the regular season isn’t going to be a walk in the park. The Giants are 3 games behind the Cincinnati Reds and four behind the Washington Nationals for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The way the giants have been rolling they have a realistic shot at catching at least the Reds.
As for tomorrow, Tim Lincecum (10-14) has been scratched in favor of Yusmeiro Petit. It will be interesting to see if Bochy is willing to risk cooling off these bats in order rest the guys he trusts.
(Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained first-hand.)