SAN FRANCISCO – In a postseason full of twists and turns, the San Francisco Giants are headed back to the World Series after a big comeback against the defending champs.
Hunter Pence got the Giants going with a weird double, Matt Cain pitched his second clincher of October and San Francisco closed out Game 7 of the NL championship series in a driving rainstorm, routing the St. Louis Cardinals 9-0 Monday night.
San Francisco won its record-tying sixth elimination game of the postseason, completing a lopsided rally from a 3-1 deficit.
“These guys never quit,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “They just kept believing and they got it done.”
The Giants, who won it all in 2010, will host the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
Series MVP Marco Scutaro had his sixth multihit game of the series, matching an LCS record with 14 hits, and Pablo Sandoval drove in a run in a fifth straight game.
After falling behind 3-1 in the series at Busch Stadium, the Giants outscored the wild-card Cardinals 20-1 over the final three games behind stellar starting pitching from Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Cain.
They also benefited from some strange bounces.
On Pence’s double that highlighted a five-run third, his bat broke at the label on impact, then the broken barrel hit the ball twice more. That put a rolling, slicing spin on the ball and caused it to change directions – leaving shortstop Pete Kozma little chance to make the play. Kozma broke to his right, figuring that’s where the ball would go, but it instead curved to left-center.
Injured closer Brian Wilson, with his out-of-control bushy black beard, danced in the dugout and fans in the sellout crowd of 43,056 kept twirling their orange rally towels even through rain in the late innings – a downright downpour when Sergio Romo retired Matt Holliday on a popup to Scutaro to end it.
“This rain never felt so good,” Scutaro said.
After rain fell on the Cardinals during batting practice, the skies turned blue and the weather cooperated. Anxious players on both sides hung over the dugout rails as the game began.
Cain joined St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter as the only pitchers with victories in two winner-take-all games in the same postseason. Carpenter, who lost Games 2 and 6 in this series, did it last year.
Cain also pitched the Giants’ Game 5 division series clincher at Cincinnati, when San Francisco became the first team in major league history to come back from an 0-2 deficit in a five-game series by winning three consecutive road games.
“I think to do it, the guys actually have to believe it can happen,” Posey said.
Cain walked off the mound to a standing ovation when Jeremy Affeldt entered with two outs in the sixth. Affeldt then got Daniel Descalso to pop out with two runners on.
Yadier Molina had four hits but got little help from the rest of the Cardinals, who went 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position over their final three games.
Cain added an RBI single to his cause and got some sparkling defense behind him.
The play of the game went to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who made a leaping catch of Kyle Lohse’s liner to end the second inning with runners on second and third that would have been a run-scoring hit.
In the third, Scutaro, the second baseman, made a tough stop on a short hop by Carlos Beltran, and left fielder Gregor Blanco ran down a hard-hit ball by Allen Craig in left-center to end the inning.
Cain’s second-inning single made San Francisco the first team in major league postseason history to have a starting pitcher drive in a run in three straight games.
Brandon Belt hit a solo homer in the eighth for his first clout of the postseason.
It took production from everybody, even the pitchers, for these scrappy Giants to rally back from the brink one more time.
Cain certainly did his part to keep the staff rolling.
The 16-game winner, who didn’t surrender an earned run during his team’s title run two years ago, reached 46 pitches through two innings but settled in nicely the rest of the way to avenge a loss to Lohse in Game 3.
Cain even got to repay Holliday for his hard slide into Scutaro at second base in Game 2 here a week earlier. Cain plunked Holliday in the upper left arm leading off the sixth, drawing cheers from the crowd.