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.
The Giants, who won it all in 2010, will host Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
Verlander is set to pitch Wednesday’s opener. Giants manager Bruce Bochy insisted before Monday’s game he had not planned any further in advance.
Series MVP Marco Scutaro produced his sixth multihit game of the series and matched an LCS record with 14 hits and Pablo Sandoval, a former Augusta GreenJacket, drove in a run for his fifth consecutive 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.
And so the stage is set.
A driven team from Detroit, loaded with power bats and arms, guided by wily Jim Leyland and coming off an impressive sweep of the Yankees.
A surging squad from San Francisco, boosted by its rotation and talented catcher Buster Posey, fresh from a Game 7 win over defending champion St. Louis.
A Triple Crown winner in Cabrera vs. a perfect game pitcher in Cain.
The Motor City vs. the City by the Bay.
A unique pairing, too. Both franchises have been around for well over a century and are stacked with Hall of Famers – Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Carl Hubbell, Al Kaline and many more –yet they’ve never faced each other in the postseason.
Not too much recent history, either. The clubs have played only 12 games since interleague action began in 1995, most recently last year at Comerica Park. That series was notable because the Tigers fired pitching coach Rick Knapp following the final game, a day after Barry Zito and the Giants trounced Max Scherzer in a 15-3 romp.