Champion Giants shine despite many opportunities for disaster
DETROIT (Reuters) - The San Francisco Giants overcame injuries and potentially devastating roster changes to claim their second World Series crown in three years because they are an unselfish club with a common goal, pitcher Matt Cain says.
"A lot of guys are loose and relaxed, and it just seemed like all the pieces fit together," Cain said after the Giants completed their four-game blowout of the Detroit Tigers.
The Giants lost closer Brian Wilson during the first week of the season and then endured the 50-game, drug-related suspension of All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera in August.
But the distractions did not matter as the club unexpectedly won the National League West before going on a wild postseason ride that included victories in six do-or-die games.
"A lot of us kind of had the same mentality about the game," said Cain. "Nobody really stood out and wanted to steal the spotlight, and I think that's what helped us.
"And what benefited us is to be able to work together, and guys stepped up big when other guys maybe weren't performing, and that was helpful."
Perhaps nobody personified the team spirit more than Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner who played poorly this season as a starter and graciously accepted his move to the bullpen.
The 28-year-old, flame-throwing right-hander did not miss a beat in the World Series, pitching 4 2/3 innings of hitless relief.
When Wilson went down in April with an elbow injury, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla filled in and it could not have worked better, especially down the stretch.
Romo had saves in three of the four Giants wins in the World Series, including striking out the side in the final inning of Game Four. His strike-three fastball that froze Miguel Cabrera for the final out triggered a wild celebration at the mound.
"These guys let me be myself," said Romo. "They give me the confidence I need out there. They know I need the faith that they had in me.
"I couldn't let anybody down, especially if they're wearing orange and black."
Bochy said Romo is a "guy you want out there."
"He's not afraid and commands the ball so well," he said. "Really, I know this is a play on words, he saved us all year. When we lost Wilson, Casilla, he got the lion's share of the saves, and then we went by committee, and then eventually Sergio took over."
A pair of unlikely heroes, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, came through for the Giants.
Sandoval battled weight problems early in his career and played a minor role in the Giants' World Series five-game victory over the Texas Rangers in 2010.
This year, he was named the MVP of the Fall Classic after hitting .500 and belting three homers in the opening-game 8-3 victory, giving the Giants the momentum they never lost.
Vogelsong bounced around the minors and played in Japan before making a name for himself in the majors a year ago. Now 35, Vogelsong was the team's top starter down the stretch and pitched 5 2/3 of scoreless ball in his Game Three victory.
With enough players shining during the World Series, it didn't really matter that National League batting champion Buster Posey hit just .267 against Detroit.
The starters, including left-handers Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito, were top shelf, the relievers were nearly flawless and the bats came through then it mattered.
Journeyman second baseman Marco Scutaro was the NLCS MVP and had the game-winning hit in the World Series clincher.
Playing their best ball at the right time, San Francisco ended the playoffs with a seven-game winning streak.
"When you look at this club, the terms team work, team play, play as a team, that's used loosely, but these guys truly did," Bochy said. "They set aside their own agenda and asked what's best for the club.
"And we put guys in different roles, nobody ever said a word, complained or anything, and that's the only way it got done.
"It shows so much character in that clubhouse, how they kept fighting and said, 'Hey, we're not going home.'"
(Editing by Julian Linden)