And at the heart of this: The Giants played their sixth game of this postseason which, had they lost, they would have started their offseason. They came back from a three-games-to-one deficit in the NLCS, and they will host the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the Word Series on Wednesday because of that uncommon, flirt-with-disaster resilience. In the final three games of this series, they outscored the Cardinals 20-1.
“I love every single guy in there,” said second baseman Marco Scutaro, who had three of his 14 NLCS hits Monday and was named series MVP. “We’ve been in this situation before, and we came through. We did it again, and we’re National League champs.”
Those achievements can’t be taken away from the Giants, who had never won a Game 7 in team history. “This is a special group,” Manager Bruce Bochy said.
But the moment that turned this game — and yes, a nine-run game can have a turning point — is one that will follow Pete Kozma into the offseason and, potentially, beyond. It came in the third inning, with the bases loaded and nobody out, and the Cardinals trailing 2-0, having just lifted starter Kyle Lohse.
The hitter: right fielder Hunter Pence. The reliever: hard-throwing Joe Kelly. Kozma is the Cardinals shortstop, a former first-round pick who is in the majors — and therefore, at the crossroads of a Game 7 — because of an injury to starter Rafael Furcal in August. Kozma’s postseason started splendidly, and he delivered a signature moment: the two-run single that completed St. Louis’s logic-defying comeback against the Washington Nationals in the fifth game of their division series.
But here, Kozma faced a different moment. Kelly’s job was to get Pence to hit a groundball. And on his first pitch, a 95-mph fastball, he did just that. The pitch was so effective it shattered Pence’s bat.
“That’s exactly what we were hoping for,” Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny said.
Kozma, watching the ball off the bat, broke to his right. And in that moment, his role in the game, the series and this postseason changed. The ball, somehow, hit Pence’s still-breaking bat again. And then, ever so slightly, once more. It changed directions.