By Art Spander
The story was in my head if not yet in my computer: Giants lose. Road teams don’t win the seventh game. Not after they’ve dropped the sixth game. Look at history. Look at the Giants in 2002.
What I failed to look at was the Giants of 2014.
Home teams had won the seventh game nine times in a row since 1979. Too bad, Giants. No, too good. Precedent be damned. Somebody had to break the streak. Did we dare imagine it would be the Giants?
The last time the Giants were in this position was 12 years ago in Anaheim. The Angels, as we know, won the last two and won the Series. And J.T. Snow, then the Giants' first baseman, sat staring at his locker and saying so quietly, “You play seven months, and it all comes down to one game.”
That game belonged to the Giants on Wednesday night, the Giants and remarkable Madison Bumgarner and brilliant Bruce Bochy and everyone else in the visiting clubhouse. That game made nervous wrecks of fans watching at San Francisco’s Civic Center and in taverns from Sausalito to San Leandro. That game, a 3-2 victory over Kansas City, also made the Giants champions a third time in five years.
Maybe not a dynasty, compared to the Yankees of the late 1940s and early '50s, but not unimpressive either, particularly since after moving to San Francisco in 1958, the Giants couldn’t win a single championship for 52 years.
"Nearly men" is the British phrase. People who come close but never reach the top. But that’s all done now. Three in five years. This one with Matt Cain out half the season. This one with a search for a second baseman until Joe Panik arrived in late summer. This one with Brandon Belt missing because of a concussion. This one after the Giants were stomped by the Dodgers during the regular season.
“Ya gotta believe.” The Mets fans originated that phrase when their expansion team rose from hopelessness (40-120 in 1962) to win the 1969 World Series. The team gained a nickname the New York tabloids still use, “Amazin’.” The Post only calls them “The Amazin’s.”
The Amazin’ Giants. Wild cards. Wild champions. Defier of odds who win in the evens: ’10, ’12 and now ’14. How did they do it?
Tim Lincecum slumps. Matt Cain needs surgery. Marco Scutaro never shows. Angel Pagan is out much of the year. “These guys are resilient,” Bochy has said so many times. Unquestionably.
And something I ignored: Winning breeds winning. The Giants, as are all great teams — and three titles in five years allows the use of the word “great” — understand who they are and how to succeed.
You’ve head the cliché so often. They do the little things, which turn out big. Kansas City was going to run the Giants to the Missouri state line. It didn’t work out that way. The Giants are the ones who took the extra base. The Giants were the ones who found heroes at virtually every position or in front of virtually every locker.
Panik turns a probable hit into a double play. Juan Perez, a 170 hitter, hangs one off the centerfield wall at AT&T Park. Travis Ishikawa comes out of the minors to hit the Giants' biggest home run in 63 years. Pablo Sandoval can’t hit in April and can’t miss in October. And Hunter Pence is irrepressible.
What this World Series reminded us is what the 1960 World Series, won by the Pirates over the Yankees, taught us: each game is a separate entity. A 10-0 loss is no different than a 1-0 loss. In fact it’s probably better. Except for the fans.
The Giants were pummeled Tuesday. That wasn’t as important as the simple fact that the Royals, who at the start of this postseason won their first eight games, had drawn even in the 2014 World Series. And had the seventh game at home. Which meant they would win.
Except they didn’t win. The Giants won. The Giants are the new Yankees. The Giants are the new Cardinals. The Giants are the team that doesn’t care what anyone predicts or says.
On Tuesday, after that one-sided defeat, Bochy was asked why he wouldn’t start Bumgarner in the seventh game. He smirked, but instead of berating the questioner, responding with something like, “What do you know about baseball?” Bochy said something like, “Everybody is a manager.”
On the Giants there is but one manager, Bruce Bochy. He brought in Bumgarner at just the perfect time. But of course.
These are the perfect times for the Giants, the times of their lives, the times of our lives. Who knows what the future holds? The present is fantastic. I don’t think I’ll write that “Giants lose’’ story. Ever.