Giants fight for World Series spot, but that's nothing new

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By DAVID ROBERTS
College Contributor Network

There's something strange happening in San Francisco, and for once it has nothing to do with the people who inhabit the city by the bay.

The San Francisco Giants are in the midst of yet another postseason run after winning a series they were never supposed to win, and by the way, they got to that series by winning a one-game playoff against the Pirates.

Because of course they did.

The business of squeaking into the playoffs and turning on the afterburners is almost expected at this point.

While the path the Giants have blazed to the National League Championship Series possesses many of the same characteristics that surrounded the franchise's championship teams from 2010 and 2012, the team itself looks mostly different.

Matt Cain is on the disabled list and has been shut down for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery on his elbow in August. Brian Wilson is a Dodger (although he seemingly forgets sometimes). And Tim Lincecum reportedly sipped a beer quietly by his locker while his teammates celebrated a 3-2 win over the Nationals in the National League Division Series.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner was included on the postseason roster, but did not see the mound once during the NLDS. Not even in relief during the Giants' 18-inning Game 2 win. His 4.74 ERA stands as the second-highest of his eight-year career, and his 134 strikeouts is the lowest ever amassed during his tenure in the 'bigs.

Uncharacteristic of an organization that constantly seeks out young talent, the Giants signed 38-year-old Tim Hudson in the offseason and made a trade for 33-year-old Jake Peavy in the middle of the season to bolster the team's starting rotation.

So far this postseason, the two pitchers have combined to pitch for 13 innings, giving up only one run on nine hits, compensating for the absence of former aces Cain and Lincecum. Paired with the one-two punch of Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco's rotation is once again threatening.

Despite hiring a couple of arms on the wrong side of 30, the Giants have stayed true to the formula that won the team two World Series trophies.

The average age on the team's 40-man roster during the 2014 regular season was 28.5 years old, in 2012 it was 27.6 and in 2010 was 29.7.

When manager Bruce Bochy inherited the Giants in 2007, he was tasked with taming the Barry Bonds show along with guiding a team whose average starting position player was over 35 years old.

The next year, Bonds was gone, a catalyst in rebuilding a team that won the National League pennant five years prior to the season. Players like Rich Aurillia and Ross Ortiz, who were staples of the 2002 season, left as the decade progressed, allowing young players like Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey to stake out the positions they still hold today.

But what really changed for the Giants was the dynamic of the team.

No one player received the bulk of media attention and there were no dugout scrapes between teammates. In fact, the Giants were praised for how little the average baseball fan knew about the 2010 team.

"It's all about them," Bochy said of his team after Tuesday's win. "It's fun to see a group of guys that come together that are so unselfish and that play with so much grit."

That unselfishness has translated into wins. And lots of them.

San Francisco won 71 and 72 games in 2007 and 2008, respectively, before Bochy put together his first winning team with the Giants in 2009.

This year, the odds are stacked against the Giants yet again. Not only is their ace, Cain, injured, but the team has also lost outfielder Angel Pagan and infielder Marco Scutaro to season-ending injuries. As if that isn't enough to sort through already, San Francisco must travel to St. Louis, Mo., to face the Cardinals, a team that has mirrored the Giants' success over the past half decade.

The team should receive a significant boost on offense if outfielder Michael Morse is able to go against the Cardinals. Bochy plans on adding Morse to the NLCS roster after he missed time due to an oblique strain. Morse hit .279 this year with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs. His 16 home runs tied him with Sandoval for third on the team.

Despite eliminating the National League's top team, the Giants still remain the underdogs facing Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals.

But if nothing else, there's one thing fans of the team have learned to repeat to themselves it's: Don't stop believing.


David Roberts is a fourth-year English major at the University of South Carolina. He was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, but relocated to the land below the Mason-Dixon line in grade school, citing earthquakes and Raiders fans as minor nuisances. David is a die-hard Cubs fan and still breaks down when thinking about the 2003 NLCS. Follow him on Twitter: @davidjayroberts
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