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PADECKY: Perfect vibe heading into World Series


SAN FRANCISCO

The Giants? They had adversity this season? Is that true? When?

It seems so long ago now, after what happened these last three St. Louis games. Giant starters Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain allowed one run in their final 20 1/3 innings pitched. That's a combined 0.44 earned-run average in three elimination games. A 0.44 ERA! When the pressure was the greatest, the three pitchers posted numbers you typically only see in high school baseball.

"Barry showed us the way and we just followed," said Vogelsong of Zito's 7 2/3 performance in Game 5. "Barry showed us how to attack the hitters and attack early."

Yes, it was the aggression we saw in those three games. The Cardinals, after all, were supposed a carbon copy of the Giants. Resilient. Tough. No quit. No loss of composure. It made for a good story line — until the Giants sucked the very life out of a team that was supposed to be as hot and as tenacious as they were.

The Cardinals? Never say die? Sorry. They died. Expired in a wither. They died at the hand, er, three hands of a lefty and two righties. By the time Monday night and Game 7 rolled around, the Cardinals swung at pitches outside of the strike zone, missed ones right down the middle of the plate and botched, really botched, balls on the infield and in the outfield. Right in front of our eyes, much to the shock of Cardinal fans and their team as well, St. Louis unraveled.

You almost felt embarrassed for them. Almost.

And then Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro — the NLCS' MVP — said what he said in the postgame locker room and restored perspective.

In the downpour, with the rain coming down so hard in that Cardinal ninth, Scutaro looked up, drunk a million raindrops and a second later caught Matt Holliday's infield pop for the last out of the game.

"I just kept telling myself, &‘Don't you let it drop,' " Scutaro said. "I just wanted to catch the last out."

Those two sentences then set up the defining sentence, for Scutaro and for the 2012 Giants.

It was Holliday who slid into Scutaro at second base in Game 2, knocking down the second baseman, causing the AT&T crowd to deliver heavy vocal criticism. Scutaro didn't gripe, went about rehabbing that injured hip.

But now, Marco, you caught the last out and it was off Holliday's bat. How do you feel about that? "How do you like me now?" Scutaro said.

Actually, it was more like a yelp and as close to in an your-face as the veteran will ever get. Yes, it was a smack-down all right. To the victors goes the smack-down. How do you like me now Cardinals? Better put, how. do you like the Giants now?

"I never saw this coming," said Giants bullpen coach Mark Gardner.

Gardner was referring to the 9-0 final score, the kind of game that if it happened in spring training, Giants manager Bruce Bochy would have pulled his starters by the fifth inning. Utterly complete and convincing. And, to be fair, disappointing as well. The way this LCS had set up, it was going to a Game 7 and it would go down to the last inning. So it was disappointing the Cardinals didn't put up more of a fight.

"It's surreal," Zito said. "They had the edge (going into Game 5) and then we were able to get it back and it kept building and building. It was like magic."

Giants left fielder Hunter Pence said the same thing about his double in the third, the at-bat in which slow motion replay showed Pence hitting the ball three times while breaking his bat. Yes, there's no explaining it except this.

"Everything is bouncing our way," Scutaro said.

Possessing that gift of doing the right thing always at the right time, they dismantled the Cardinals so easily. It was like seeing a singer fall apart right in front of your eyes while forgetting the words to the national anthem. It was like that for St. Louis. The Cardinals forgot to play in the way that got them here. Zito, Vogelsong and Cain had the Cardinals whispering to themselves, at a loss to stop the spin those three pitchers put them in.

The Cardinals only scored one run in their last 28 innings against the Giants.

Only one conclusion can be reached as a result of that.

It's time to drop the plucky, never-say-die, never-count-us out label we have put on the Giants. It is time we stop listening and believing the refrain — no one gave us a chance. I mean, seriously, it's difficult right now to imagine this team EVER having adversity after the last three games.

No Brian Wilson? A busted Melky Cabrera? The tired arm of Madison Bumgarner throwing puff balls? Tim Lincecum has no confidence and no fastball? The Giants dead in the water against the Reds, and then again against the Cardinals? Did all those things really happen to this team? I can't recall. Probably, I guess. But that seems so long ago now. As if it happened to another team in another season.

"Seems like every time Marco gets up now," Vogelsong said, "he gets a hit."

Such is the vibe when you put three games together in a row like this. You feel you are living under a golden light. The Giants are going to the World Series and they didn't come in through the back door, thankful they got here on a lucky break here and there. No, the Giants came through the front door and, truth to tell, they kicked in that door. Knocked that sucker flat. And that should get the attention and the respect of the Detroit Tigers.

Because the Giants now have become infinitely more complicated and dangerous that anyone could imagine they would. Just ask the Cardinals, who are still trying to find out the number of that bus that hit them.

"How do you like me now?" That should be the Giants rally phrase of 2012.

You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.