SAN FRANCISCO -- The comeback kings will play for baseball's greatest crown.
The Giants blew past the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday at AT&T Park, winning 9-0 in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series to complete a second straight historic comeback and advance to the World Series for the second time in three seasons. The Giants are the first team in MLB history to win six elimination games en route to the World Series.
"It's hard to comprehend," catcher Buster Posey said. "When your backs are against the wall, you just play for that game. You have to believe you have a great group of guys that can do this, and we do.
"We never got ahead of ourselves, and this is the result."
The coming result is Wednesday's Game 1 of the World Series at AT&T Park against the Detroit Tigers. The immediate result was a scene Giants fans will never forget.
The Giants roared to victory behind the predictable and the unbelievable. Matt Cain shut the Cardinals out for 52/3 gutty innings, and series MVP Marco Scutaro went 3 for 4 to tie an LCS record with 14 hits in a series. But the game turned on Hunter Pence's two-run double that appeared to literally turn in midair.
"The baseball gods helped us with that ball," manager Bruce Bochy said.
The baseball gods conspired with Mother Nature to set a dramatic scene as this historic set of Giants put a twist on the age-old tradition of soaking each other with champagne. This time, the Giants got soaked before the victory was official.
The skies opened up in the ninth inning as puddles formed around the infield and groundskeepers rushed to rebuild a mound that Sergio Romo would take for the final out.
As a deafening crowd cheered, Romo got a fitting final out. Five games after nearly knocking Scutaro out of the series with a hard slide at second base, Matt Holliday popped out to the second baseman.
"It was surreal," said pitcher Barry Zito, who turned the momentum with 72/3 shutout innings in Game 5. "It never rains like that here. That was the perfect amount of drama on top of drama. The night ended magically."
After overcoming a 2-0 deficit to the Cincinnati Reds to advance out of the NLDS, the Giants fell behind 3-1 to the Cardinals. Zito put the team on his back in Game 5, followed by Ryan Vogelsong in Game 6 and Cain in Game 7. In the final three games, the Giants outscored the dangerous Cardinals 20-1.
"We just got a lot of momentum going our way," Cain said. "It started with Zito."
Actually, it started at the trade deadline. The Giants went out and dealt for Pence, the emotional leader of this postseason run, and Scutaro, who hit .500 in the NLCS. Both players were heavily involved Monday.
The Giants led 2-0 heading into the third inning and promptly knocked Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse out of the game with a Scutaro single, Pablo Sandoval double and Posey walk that loaded the bases. Joe Kelly entered to face Pence, who has sparked the comebacks with fiery speeches but entered Game 7 with just one postseason RBI.
On Pence's first day after being traded to San Francisco from the Philadelphia Phillies, the right fielder smiled and warned reporters, "I have to be honest, every now and then, I do things you don't see very often." That turned out to be the understatement of the season.
Pence broke his bat on a 95 mph fastball but the ball hit the bat three times, once at contact and twice as Pence followed through with a shattered bat. The result was a knuckleball to shortstop, and Pete Kozma initially broke to his right before unsuccessfully sprawling back to his left as the ball shot into the outfield.
Scutaro and Sandoval scored easily, and Posey, who couldn't even run when spring training began, sprinted home when Jon Jay overran the ball in center.
"It was weird -- but I was happy," Pence said. "I've had a lot of weird broken-bat hits, but that ranks up there. You know, it's baseball, you can't explain it even if you play."
That's as good an explanation as any for Scutaro's resurgence. The 36-year-old was picked up at the deadline because the Giants needed a fill-in for Sandoval, who was injured. Scutaro helped the lineup become a grind-it-out powerhouse, and in this series became the first player in LCS history to have six multi-hit games.
"To live this experience for me is unbelievable," Scutaro said. "I've played with a bunch of guys with a span of years in the big leagues that never had the opportunity to be in the playoffs or play in the World Series. Now I'm going."
Scutaro was a rock throughout the series and again on Monday night, when the Cardinals inexplicably fell apart. A mental mistake and another fielding mistake by Kozma opened the floodgates far before the rain came. By the time the third inning was over, the Giants had a 7-0 lead.
"It all happened really quickly," Posey said.
The entire comeback did, just as it had in the previous round.
"Hey, it's baseball," Romo said, smiling wide and soaked in rain and champagne. "You never quite know what you're going to get."