Pablo Sandoval is the World Series MVP and Marco Scutaro delivered another clutch October hit, driving in the series-deciding run in the 10th inning of Game 4. But make no mistake, the Giants won the 2012 World Series the same way they won it two years ago: on the strength of their pitching.
Tim Lincecum didn’t win three consecutive Game 1’s this year, however, and Matt Cain didn’t toss 21 1/3 scoreless innings. Instead, the Giants brought home their second World Series title in three years by stringing together six incredible (seven good) starts led by two pitchers who weren’t even on 2010 postseason roster: Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito.
The Giants’ season was circling the drain just 11 days ago after Lincecum was knocked around in an 8-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series. The Orange and Black were facing elimination for the second time in the postseason and it was obvious where to point the blame. In nine postseason games, the team’s starting pitchers had survived the sixth inning only twice, producing a dismal 5.52 ERA.
But then Barry Zito, the most unlikely sports hero in the Bay Area, took the hill with nothing to lose. Zito, of course, tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings, sending the series back to China Basin where 43,000 delirious fans were eagerly awaiting another chance to lose their minds. More importantly, though, Zito kick-started a six-game stretch where Giants starting pitching was almost untouchable.
Vogelsong, who went 10 years in between big-league starts, seized the moment with the home crowd roaring in Game 6 and Cain did his ace thing, throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 7.
The arms didn’t cool off in the World Series. Again, it was Zito setting the stage in Game 1, knocking off reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander in one of the biggest David vs. Goliath pitching matchups in recent World Series history. Madison Bumgarner nearly replicated his indelible performance from the 2010 World Series in this year’s Game 2, extending his scoreless-innings streak in the Fall Classic to 15.
Vogelsong threw the cherry on the sundae in Game 3 with 5 2/3 shutout innings. In doing so, Vogelsong pushed his postseason record to 3-0 and his 1.09 ERA is the lowest in a single postseason (minimum 24 innings) since Orel Hershiser’s 1.05 in 1988. Vogelsong was also joined Christy Mathewson as the second pitcher to start his postseason career with four straight starts of five or more innings pitched allowing one or fewer runs.
Over those six starts, Giants starters combined to post a 0.47 ERA. They also joined the 2010 team as one of four to ever throw four shutouts in a single postseason.
But it wasn’t just the starters who baffled opposing hitters. The bullpen was lights out when it needed to be and Sergio Romo was a poised substitute for Brian Wilson.
The most impressive relief performance came from Lincecum, though. He provided a bridge from the starters to Romo that was as strong as any in the Bay Area. He was the trump card in Bochy’s deck and he embraced the role without the slightest wimper, allowing one run in 13 innings.
Sure, this run wasn’t as pretty as 2010 when the Giants jumped ahead in every series behind the dominance of their starting staff. But the World Series trophy is returning to The City because the Giants still had the nastiest staff in baseball when it mattered.
Paul Gackle is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @PGackle.