SAN FRANCISCO – Bobby Thomson and Travis Ishikawa … any relation?
Well, here’s one: THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
A team that displayed zero power four games into this National League Championship Series busted out of the joint in the late innings of Game 5, and dare we suggest it’s never been louder here at this little intersection of Third and King.
Michael Morse made an exuberant tour of the bases after his pinch home run in the eighth tied it, and then Ishikawa sent the Giants to their third World Series in five years with a three-run shot into the right field arcade in the ninth.
Ishikawa lifted both arms in triumph from the moment he made contact against last year’s NLCS MVP, Michael Wacha, who was making his first appearance of the series.
And just like that, born on the backs of Morse, whose last homer came in a rehab game at Papago Park a week ago, and Ishikawa, a minor league free agent who considered retiring in April, the Giants celebrated a 6-3 victory to clinch the NLCS over the St. Louis Cardinals in five games.
Bruce Bochy said he was delirious after the win in Game 4. What in the world does he feel like now?
Starting pitching report
Madison Bumgarner was the one untouchable ace in this postseason, his only blemish caused by his own soup spill of a throw to third base in the NLDS against Washington.
He was not untouchable this time. But even while over-amped and without his best command or fool-me stuff, he still found a way to complete eight innings and hold the Cardinals to three runs.
Bumgarner needed help to settle in after allowing singles to two of the first three batters he faced. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval provided it, leaping and needing every bit of extension to grab Jhonny Peralta’s line drive before throwing to double Jon Jay off second base to end what could’ve been a very crooked first inning.
The defense evened out for Bumgarner in the third after he walked two and faced Jay with one out. The hot-hitting No. 2 batter sent a line drive to left field, and for the first time this postseason, Ishikawa looked like a first baseman moonlighting in the outfield. Ishikawa took a bad route and the ball went over his head for an RBI double. Bumgarner followed up with perhaps his best work of the night, getting Matt Holliday and Jay to fly out to strand two runners in scoring position and hold it to a 1-0 deficit.
The Giants provided Bumgarner a lead in the third but he undid it after four pitches. Matt Adams clocked a 1-2 curveball into the arcade – the first home run Bumgarner had allowed to a left-handed hitter since April 11, when the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez connected against him.
Adams had himself a nice little reverse split this postseason, having homered off Clayton Kershaw and now Bumgarner.
The Cardinals took the lead three batters later when Tony Cruz punched a slider over the left field fence. Bumgarner did a full-body bend at the waist. After that, the left-hander retired the last 13 batters he faced, stretching the ballpark on a couple drives to the track.
Santiago Casilla began to come unglued for the first time this postseason in the ninth, walking Adams and then giving up a one-out single to Randal Grichuk. Kolten Wong followed with a hard grounder that Sandoval deflected. Shortstop Brandon Crawford, showing an elite blend of instincts and athleticism, managed to change direction, grab the ball, spin and throw for a force-out at second base.
After Tony Cruz walked to load the bases and left-handed pinch hitter Oscar Taveras stepped to the plate, Bochy went to left-hander Jeremy Affeldt for a third consecutive day and the seventh time in the last nine postseason games. Affeldt scooped up a tapper near the mound and ran it all the way to first base to escape the jam and preserve the tie.
For that great escape, Affeldt would receive the win. It was his 18th consecutive postseason appearance without allowing a run.
At the plate
The Giants knew the Cardinals did not have a fully charged battery, with catcher Yadier Molina unable to start and Adam Wainwright running out of breath under a three-year avalanche of innings.
But if anyone underestimated Wainwright’s ability to compete with a non-animated wing, they soon discovered their error.
Wainwright, who didn’t escape the fifth inning in either of his first two postseason starts, cut and sank his way through the lineup twice before turning to his more dromedary offerings.
The Giants got to him with one swing – yes, one swing! – in the third inning, when Gregor Blanco singled and Joe Panik followed by lashing a 1-0 cutter into the seats above the right field arcade for a two-run homer and a 2-1 lead.
It was the second major league home run for Panik (he hit one, at Washington, in 287 regular-season plate appearances). In 46 postseason at-bats, he had one homer to go along with one strikeout.
And it ended the Giants’ drought at 242 plate appearances without a home run, a streak that dated back six games and two innings to Brandon Belt’s shot in the 18th to win Game 2 of the NLDS at Washington.
The Giants found themselves trailing again soon enough, and they were poised to respond after Pablo Sandoval sliced a leadoff double in the fourth to extend his franchise record to 23 consecutive postseason games reaching base. Hunter Pence walked and Brandon Belt followed by smoking a line drive, but second baseman Kolten Wong snagged it to start a double play. Sandoval reacted as quickly as he could, but there was no preventing the bad break. Ishikawa walked but Brandon Crawford struck out to end the threat.
Starting with Crawford, Wainwright retired the last 10 batters he faced, striking out five of them. It was one curve after another as he varied his looks, speeding up and slowing down his delivery. At one point, he went into a slow-motion leg lift before throwing a curve to Ishikawa, then he quick-pitched a 93 mph snapping turtle of a fastball to record the strikeout. Crawford grounded out to end the seventh inning and leave Morse standing in the on-deck circle.
The Cardinals finally had their bullpen set up the way they wanted, with Neshek and his jumping-jack delivery followed by closer Adam Wainwright.
But Morse, who was 0 for 1 with a walk against Neshek, laid waste to those plans.
And in the ninth, with Wacha finally appearing for the first time in this series, Sandoval started the rally with a single. Pence lined out, but Belt drew a walk to push pinch runner Joaquin Arias into scoring position.
Ishikawa didn’t hit a dribbler to first base that the Cardinals misplayed. He didn’t hit a bouncer that took a weird hop off the mound. He just dropped the bat head on a 2-0, 96-mph fastball. And he crushed it.
Two nights after making one of his biggest plays as a Giant on Holliday’s ground ball in Game 3, Sandoval replaced it atop the list with an even bigger one. Crawford’s play on Wong in the ninth showed off all his skills in one highlight.
The Giants announced 43,217 paid. It sounded like 400,000.
The Giants play the Kansas City Royals in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 p.m. PST.