The Giants relied on Hunter Pence's leadership during his first stint with the team. He didn't pick up "The Reverend" moniker for nothing.
Pence earned the nickname after the 2012 NLDS, giving his teammates a fiery, inspirational sermon as San Francisco trailed two-games-to-none in the best-of-five series with the Cinncinati Reds. The Giants overcame that deficit, and a three-games-to-one hole against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, to win their second World Series of the decade following Pence's speech. Though he slashed just .210/.230/.290 in his first postseason in orange and black, the speech cemented Pence's place in Giants lore.
The Giants only faced playoff elimination once after that run -- the 2014 NL Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh-- before Game 7 of the World Series. San Francisco, coming off a 10-0 road loss to the Kansas City Royals in Game 6, had reason to hang its collective head.
That, unsurprisingly, is not what Pence did.
"We got off the bus at the hotel, and it just happened that Hunter Pence and I were the only two in the elevator going up." Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper recalled Tuesday on KNBR's "Murph & Mac Show." "And really in Hunter Pence's style, he looked me in the eye and with deep sincerity said, 'I'm glad. This is the way it has to be. I can't wait for tomorrow.' "
Pence's confidence was warranted. He entered Game 7 batting .435 with a home run and 5 RBI in the World Series, recording a hit in each game of the Fall Classic. The outfielder kept rolling in Game 7, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Had Madison Bumgarner not thrown a historic five-inning save three days after tossing 119 pitches, Pence would've had a strong case for World Series MVP. He tied Pablo Sandoval for the Fall Classic lead with 12 hits and three doubles, leading all hitters with a 1.167 OPS. Pence's calm in the face of adversity went a long way.
"Meanwhile, everybody else is ready to puke (after Game 6), right?" Kuiper continued. "Because of (losing Game 7 in 2002 to the Anaheim Angels) and we got a Game 7 ... but he was ready to roll, man. I don't believe he slept. I think he sat in his chair in his room and waited until the bus left the next day."
Pence returned to the Giants this offseason after an unlikely All-Star campaign with the Texas Rangers in 2019. The veteran admitted he doubted if he could still play after the Giants didn't re-sign him following the 2018 season, but he revamped his swing and revitalized his career as a 35-year-old.
The Giants likely won't be contenders whenever the MLB season starts after the coronavirus pandemic, but Pence won't be counting San Francisco -- or himself -- out.