Giants prove pitching, defense indeed win titles - NBC Sports

Giants prove pitching, defense indeed win titles
New champions were built on perhaps the most-fundamental principle in the game
October 29, 2012, 11:10 am

Over the years, the Giants have attempted to curb Pablo Sandoval's appetite and change his work habits, but in the end, they let Panda be Panda, and mature on his own.

Because when he gets hot, he can carry a team through a postseason by hitting .364 with 11 extra-base hits and 13 RBI in 16 games, and win a World Series MVP award with a three-homer game, .500 batting average and four RBI.

After nine teams passed on a skinny little right-hander in the 2006 amateur draft, the Giants weren't afraid to pull the trigger on Tim Lincecum.

Two Cy Young Awards later, he unselfishly turns in a string of dominant postseason relief appearances, the last two of which were key wins in a World Series sweep of the Detroit Tigers.

But another by-product is an always-have-fun-mentality that can shake off pressure and help in winning six postseason elimination games.

So maybe the Giants, who put away the Tigers with a 4-3 victory in 10 innings on Sunday night, aren't going to be the MLB model organization everybody tries to emulate. But two World Series titles in three years say they know what works for them, and they're doing it right.

"Two out of the three years; it's amazing,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. "Believe me, I know how difficult it is to get here. It's pretty remarkable what these guys have done.''

But the closer you look, the more you realize that for all their eccentricities, the Giants are built on perhaps the most-fundamental principle in the game - pitching and defense wins.

It was around the time back in October of 2006 when senior vice president/general manager Brian Sabean swiftly scooped up Bruce Bochy to replace retiring manager Felipe Alou that the Giants committed to a makeover.

Partially by choice, and partially dictated by their unforgiving AT&T Park - the toughest place in which to hit a home run this season - the Giants knew they had to transform from more of a slugging, station-to-station team to a more athletic one that was led by its pitching staff.

And then they went out and executed the plan. Do pitching and defense ever go out of style, Mr. Sabean?

"No, because we're proving they haven't - at the right time, and in the biggest games,'' he said. "In our park, in our division, you're crazy not to build (around) a pitching staff. If you pick up the ball, you're in most games. We play a lot of close games in our division.''

And in the postseason, too. A postseason that ended with the Giants on a seven-game winning streak that began in Game 5 of the NLCS; a streak during which they allowed 0, 1, 0, 3, 0, 0 and 3 runs.

"When pitching is your strength, you want a good defense,'' Bochy said. "As long as you can stay in games, the better chance you have of winning them. That's how we play.''

I think our defense saved us in every game. The double plays, the plays (Gregor) Blanco made, the plays (Brandon) Crawford made, really everybody.''

And when you look at the Giants' Game 4 lineup, you see exactly how Sabean's plan has come together.

Ace Matt Cain, the longest-tenured Giant on the roster as the club's No. 1 pick in the June 2002 draft. He was the first of the rotation's first-round picks, followed by Lincecum in 2006 and Madison Bumgarner in 2007.

When you add likely NL MVP Buster Posey (first round, 2008) into the equation, as well as Crawford (fourth round, 2008) and Brandon Belt (fifth round, nine), that's enviable draft-and-development success.

Crawford went to spring training without a roster spot guaranteed, and knowing he would struggle offensively at times, the Giants kept him around anyway. The reason - all you had to do was watch him play shortstop in this series. It won't be a surprise if he's a Gold Glove Award winner in the near future.

Gregor Blanco was signed as a free agent last winter, and was nothing more than a fourth outfielder until the July 31 Melky Cabrera suspension. That emphasis on defense kept the Giants from dealing for a pricier, more-offense-oriented replacement for Cabrera.

Instead, they traded for Marco Scutaro, who never stopped delivering in key situations and playing excellent defense after he came over from the Colorado Rockies. Scutaro, 36, long has been a solid, fundamentally sound player, but he quickly earned the nickname 'Blockbuster' (as in the Giants' big blockbuster acquisition).

So who else but Scutaro - the NLCS MVP - who delivered the game-winning hit Sunday, a single in front of Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson that scored Ryan Theriot.

"You get worried when a guy like that comes up; you think maybe he's used them all up,'' Cain said. "But he had one more left, and it was the biggest one we needed.''

Added Bochy: "I knew he was a good player. But I didn't realize how good he was until I saw him on a daily basis. He's a guy you want up there in that situation.''



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