12:40 AM EDT, October 29, 2012
DETROIT -- Ryan Theriot is living the dream. Brandon Crawford too.
Ditto the rest of the San Francisco Giants, who shed a .346 hitter like it was nothing, then swept a World Series.
Gregor Blanco more than replaced Melky Cabrera and manager Bruce Bochy punched the right buttons throughout an October that probably should have ended after their third game, when they were one timely Cincinnati hit away from taking the flight of shame back to SFO.
All's well that ends well, and they certainly proved themselves to be deserving champions, completing the sweep with a 4-3 10-inning victory Sunday night.
As for the American League champion Tigers? They were living on borrowed time after Justin Verlander served up two Game 1 home runs to Pablo Sandoval, and it ran out shortly after a single by Marco Scutaro -- him again? -- scored Theriot from second base in the 10th inning Sunday.
For Theriot, the former Cub, this will be back-to-back World Series parades. He batted leadoff for the Cardinals in Game 7 against the Rangers last October, and this time he was riding along on a magical journey with the Giants, who featured a two-time Cy Young winner working out of the bullpen and a $126 million mistake showing that he wasn't done when he became a fifth starter.
Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito outpitched Verlander and the Tigers' rotation that had piled up a 1.02 earned-run average in the first two rounds of the playoffs, eliminating the A's and Yankees. This was masterful fun and reminded Detroit manager Jim Leyland that he had not seen it all. Not quite.
"I'm a little flabbergasted, to be honest,'' Leyland said after the clincher.
Imagine how Crawford feels.
For the Giants' second-year shortstop, this was the completion of a lifelong fantasy, down to the set and costumes.
"I mean, I was a (Giants) fan for about 20 years,'' said the 25-year-old Crawford. "I know how much the Giants fans want a championship and how exciting it was a couple years ago when we won.''
Crawford, one of the best young shortstops in baseball, grew up in a baseball-crazy family in Pleasanton, Calif., across the bay from San Francisco. His father was such a hard-core fan that he went to Candlestick Park with his 5-year-old son, Brandon, in September 1992, carrying a sign to beg National League President Bill White to stop the Giants from moving to Florida.
The San Francisco Chronicle snapped a photo of the two, and it's now a family treasure. So too is a brick outside of AT&T Park, which opened in 2000, when Brandon was 13. It lists everyone's name in the family, including Brandon.
This is the stuff from a Hollywood movie, and it has played out quietly throughout October on baseball's biggest stages. "Words can't even describe it," Lynn Crawford, the shortstop's mother, told the San Jose Mercury News over the weekend.
The Giants worked without a net in their first two playoff series, recovering from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to outlast the Reds and Cardinals, and Crawford was as dependable as your neighborhood Starbucks.
Who knows how this works? I had the pitching-heavy Tigers favored over the Giants, but this much is clear in 20/20 hindsight: There was no way they could have beaten the Giants when the Reds and the Cardinals didn't.
"For a team that was down to Cincinnati 0-2, come back and win, fight their way through the other series, they deserved it,'' Leyland said. "They deserved to be the world champions.''
After what they went through to get to the World Series, the Giants were not taking chances against the American League champs. They wouldn't let them win even one game.
The Tigers came closest in Game 4, but in a fitting finish Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera took strike three from the bearded gnome, Sergio Romo, and the Giants jumped on each other at the pitcher's mound.
For Leyland and the Tigers' fans, the final result brought back painful memories of 2006, when the Tigers were dismissed in five games by the Cardinals. Everything turned when Verlander served up two of the three Game 1 homers for Sandoval, who was named the Series' most valuable player.
Verlander is going to have to live with the fact that he lost his last start in another magical season. He was beaten by Zito, whose win in St. Louis on Oct. 19 made the Giants realize they might actually have the stuff to win their second World Series in three years.
They needed five games to beat Texas in 2010, when their rotation was rolling all October. This was even more decisive. It was hard to believe, even for the guys who had the best view.
"I still can't believe that game,'' Sandoval said about his three-homer night. "I don't want to wake up.''
Why would he?