A feel of destiny descends on AT&T Park again
Faced with a modern-day Goliath, the Giants came armed with pebbles and sticks. They had no answer for Bryce Harper beyond their pride and good fortune. The highlight reel went to the Washington Nationals on a memorable Tuesday night at AT&T Park, but the National League’s Division Series went to the Giants.
Only the score, 3-2, made any sense at all.
Then again, the Giants’ recent history strikes the feel of destiny. As a sellout Game 4 crowd streamed onto the streets, at once joyous and relieved, more than a few fans had to be saying, “Every other year.” And why not? The pattern has become too established to dismiss. In the wake of the 2010 and 2012 championships, the Giants are now four wins away from yet another World Series.
Prior to this postseason, it was difficult to find a scout, executive or media sage forecasting another Giants title. One well-balanced ESPN survey showed no voters going that way. The next road leads to St. Louis, where the NLCS opens Saturday night, and that’s never a bargain — especially in light of the Cardinals’ series-clinching victory over ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on Tuesday night.
And yet, at this point, who’s betting against the Giants?
And aren’t they glad they won’t see Harper until next season?
Facing rookie pitcher Hunter Strickland with the Giants leading 2-1 in the seventh inning, Harper launched a drive of tape-measure distance and incomprehensible height. Apparently bound for some distant galaxy, it carried just inside the right-field foul pole, splashing into McCovey Cove with plenty of room to spare. It was his third homer of the series, each a Barry Bonds-caliber blast, and the crowd’s reaction — a sort of horrified murmur, as if a fire had broken out — spoke to a prodigious feat.
“Pretty scary,” said Brandon Belt, “but going against that whole team was scary. What a high-energy game. But we grinded that thing out. Just enough.”
In glaring contrast to Harper’s prowess, the Giants’ three runs scored on a bases-loaded walk, a routine grounder to the infield and a horrendous wild pitch that bounced some four feet in front of the plate. Ugly, to be sure, but the beauty of this series win — as in all the others of recent vintage — is that the contributions came from everywhere.
“How’d we get past Harper?” said retired great Will Clark, an occasional mentor to the Giants’ hitters. “There was one of him and nine of us. He ran into a few mistakes our pitchers made, but guess what? We’re in here celebrating. We’re moving on, and he’s not.”
Watching the Giants celebrate in the middle of the field, fans got a sense of what this victory meant to Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner and so many others who own those big, gaudy rings. It means the world to Ryan Vogelsong, Tuesday night’s starting pitcher who, with his future in doubt, will get at least one more start as a Giant. It’s impossibly wonderful for rookie Joe Panik, who joined the team without fanfare in midseason and has become the team’s indispensable second baseman, fittingly handling the last out of the game on a routine grounder.
“Greatest group of guys you could ever be around,” Panik said amid the laughter and shouting inside the winning clubhouse. “They make it so easy for a guy like me, coming in out of nowhere. I never felt like I had to do too much.”
Here’s what it means for everyone, with manager Bruce Bochy, general manager Brian Sabean and team President Larry Baer at the forefront: The Giants are now officially enjoying their greatest five-year run since the Roaring Twenties, when the New York Giants went to four consecutive World Series (1921-24) and won two of them. They’re doing it mostly with homegrown players, their spiritual connections only growing deeper through time.
More than an hour after the game, the postgame party raged on. The Champagne was drying, but nobody was in a great hurry to leave. Wives, friends, relatives and well-wishers filled the room, and Felipe Alou, a distinguished Giants manager of the past, was one of the revelers in Bochy’s office. It was just a festival of Giants, past and present, on a roll once again.
“When I got here, I knew this team could do some great things,” said pitcher Jake Peavy, likely to get the ball in Game 2 of the NLCS on Sunday. “But I look around this room now — this is a team right here. It’s a special journey we’re on. Got a huge challenge ahead of us, but we plan to keep climbin’.”
Bruce Jenkins is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org