It was a long time coming. After 7 years of misery, the Giants and their fans were rewarded with a post-season birth.
Clinching the NL West title certainly was not easy for the Giants. With a 3 game lead and 3 to play with the Padres, the Giants did not play well the first 2 games, losing the first game 6-4 and the second 4-2. Going into Sunday's game, the Padres trimmed the Giants' lead to one game. If the Padres had won Sunday, they would have tied the Giants and forced a one-game playoff at Petco Park. However, for the Giants, the third time was the charm.
The Giants did something they could not do the first two games of the series. They were able to grab the early lead. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Jonathan Sanchez smoked a 1-out triple in the right-center field gap. However, the Padres' ace, Mat Latos, struck out Andres Torres. With 2 outs and a runner at third, Freddy Sanchez stepped up to the plate and laced a single up-the-middle, giving the Giants a 1-0 lead. Aubrey Huff would come up next and hit a long RBI double in the left-center field gap, just past the diving attempt of center fielder Chris Denorfia. Just like that, the Giants were up 2-0.
This 2-run margin would be more than enough for the Giants' starting lefty Jonathan Sanchez (13-9). In 5 innings of shutout ball, Sanchez allowed just 3 hits. Although he walked 5, he also struck out 5 and escaped from all of his jams.
Twice this season, Mat Latos defeated Jonathan Sanchez 1-0. Today, however, it was the Giants' pitching staff that shut-out the Padres. Latos, in his 6 innings of work, gave a valiant effort, but could not keep the Padres' playoff hopes alive. Although he had a quality start (6 innings pitched and 3 runs given up), he took his 10th loss of the year.
The Giants would add a big insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning courtesy of Buster Posey, who homered to left field. This gave the Giants a 3-0 lead, which felt like a 10-run cushion with the way things have been going for the Giants this series.
The Giants' bullpen did their job, as they have done all season. When the Padres would threaten, they would promptly shut them down. Most notable was the top of the 7th inning. With runners at first and second with 2 outs, up came the dangerous Miguel Tejada. He battled with the Giants' righty Ramon Ramirez. In the 9th pitch of the at-bat, Ramirez struck out Tejada with a nasty slider. Ramirez came into the game with a 0.68 ERA as a Giant.
Then came the ninth inning. As the fans waved their orange rally towels in anticipation of the division title, fans knew it would not be easy. Brian Wilson quickly quenched those fears, retiring the side in order. As Will Venable whiffed at a high fastball, Buster Posey raised his fist in the air, and soon after, the Giants came pouring out of the dugout to celebrate.
After 7 years of waiting, Giants fans could finally celebrate. Do you know how tiring it is to hear Dodger fans getting on your case when the Giants miss the playoffs? Well this year, the Dodgers will be the ones going home, and the Giants will be the one sweating it out in the playoffs. Had the Giants choked and lost 5 straight to eliminate themselves from the playoffs, I can only imagine the harassment from the Dodgers' faithful.
The Giants have had the worst umpiring this year. Today, Torres had a lead-off double taken away on a ball that clearly hit the left-field chalk line. It was called foul. The umpires did huddle up, but did not overrule the call. Tim McClellan, the home-plate umpire, was awful as well. His strike zone was incredibly small, and did not help the torture that Giants fans had to endure. He refused to call strikes on fastballs on the outside corner at the belt, but Sanchez and the Giants did a nice job overcoming that. To add to the torture, he had the slowest strike call I've ever seen. At least Phil Cuzzi's blown call at the plate against the Mets didn't end up costing the Giants in the end.
Brian Wilson just amazes me. It's the first time he's ever pitched in a game as big as this, and he nailed the save 1-2-3. Nothing phases him. This is exactly what you need in the play-offs and hopefully the World Series. He came out throwing strikes and was rewarded for it, with a save that gave the Giants the National League West title. Go celebrate Giants.
Finally, here are my Giants regular season awards.
Rookie of the Club: Buster Posey
Cy Young = Brian Wilson
Gold Glove - Andres Torres
Reliever Of The Year - Sergio Romo
Silver Slugger = Aubrey Huff
This and That
The Giants finished the season 92-70, their first 90 win season since 2004. Brian Wilson tied Rod Beck's all-time Giants saves record with 48. The Padres have had 4 90-win seasons in their history, but this is the only time they haven't made the playoffs when winning 90 games. The Giants surpassed the 3 million mark in attendance for the 9th time in AT&T Park's 11-year history (and the first time since 2007). On Thursday, the Giants will take on the Braves at AT&T Park in Game 1 of the NLDS. Tim Lincecum will be up against Derek Lowe.