The San Francisco Giants routed the St. Louis Cardinals 9-0 in Game Seven of the National League Championship Series on Monday to complete a stunning comeback and advance to the World Series against the Detroit Tigers.
The Giants, the 2010 World Series winners, trailed last year's champion Cardinals 3-1 in the best-of-seven series but completed three straight victories by a combined score of 20-1 to win the National League championship four games to three.
San Francisco will host the American League winning Tigers, who swept the New York Yankees 4-0 to win the pennant, in the first two games of Major League Baseball's championship starting with the opener of the Fall Classic on Wednesday.
The victory for the Giants was their sixth do-or-die triumph of the postseason, after fighting back to win the last three games on the road in their best-of-five Division Series with the Cincinnati Reds.
"They played with more heart, more determination than any club I've ever seen," said manager Bruce Bochy after hoisting the National League championship trophy. "They were relentless, they didn't want to go home.
"They had a never-say die attitude. They wanted to win for each other rather than themselves. These guys just never quit, they kept believing and I couldn't be prouder of a group of guys and what they accomplished here."
The game ended in pouring rain after light misting earlier, with the final out fittingly recorded by second baseman Marco Scutaro, who caught Matt Holliday's pop up to set off a wild celebration and minutes later accepted the series MVP award.
Scutaro, obtained in a mid-season trade with Colorado, went 3-for-4 in the Game Seven win to set a league championship series record with his sixth multi-hit game, tied a record with 14 hits and batted .500 with six runs scored and four RBIs.
"I want to thank God for the opportunity to live this great experience," Scutaro, 36, said after being presented the award. "And I want to thank the Giants family for trading me over here and giving me this opportunity. Thank you!"
Matt Cain was the winning pitcher, throwing five and two-thirds innings, allowing five hits and one walk with four strikeouts. St Louis starter Kyle Lohse gave up six hits and five runs in two-plus innings.
A five-run burst in the third inning, aided by some loose St. Louis fielding, blew the game open for the Giants, who had scored single runs in the first two innings for a 2-0 lead.
The pivotal inning was started by San Francisco's hottest hitters of the series, Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval, who began with a single and double. A walk to Buster Posey loaded the bases with no outs.
The key blow came on a fortuitous, spinning double off the broken bat of Hunter Pence.
Pence shattered his bat on an inside pitch, and slow motion replays showed the ball slid up the barrel of his bat and came off with deceptive spin, fooling shortstop Pete Kozma, who broke to his right on the ball before it snuck by him to his left.
Two runs were bound to score but centerfielder Jon Jay compounded the problem by bobbling the ball in his haste to retrieve it, allowing another run on his error making it 5-0.
After the bases were re-loaded, Brandon Crawford chopped a grounder over the pitcher's mound and Kozma tried for a force at home but his throw was too late for another Giants run.
After Cain struck out, Angel Pagan hit a roller to Kozma, who tried for an inning-ending double play but his toss to the second basemen Daniel Descalso was high and the throw to first too late, allowing another run for a 7-0 lead.
San Francisco added a single run in the seventh and another in the eighth on a homer by Brandon Belt to cap the scoring.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Julian Linden and Greg Stutchbury)