“The baseball gods helped us with that ball,” Bochy said. “. . . You get breaks in this game, you hope to take advantage of them.”
That change in direction froze the Cardinals. Two runs scored easily. And when center fielder Jon Jay bobbled the ball, Buster Posey, who started the play at first base, scored the Giants’ fifth run.
“It’s baseball,” Pence said. “You can’t explain it even if you play it.”
Thus, what had started as the groundball the Cardinals desperately needed turned into an unfathomable two-run double, with Posey’s run coming on an error credited to Jay. And in the aftermath, Kozma unraveled.
When a single and a walk loaded the bases again, still with no outs, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford hit a chopper to short. By now, the ball seemed to seek out Kozma. He charged and had one play: first base. Instead, he threw home. It was too late, and the Giants went up 6-0. An out later, Angel Pagan hit another ball to Kozma. Pagan is fast enough that he likely would have beaten out the double-play relay. But Kozma didn’t give the Cardinals a chance, tossing too high to second, getting only the out there.
So the crowd at AT&T Park rocked as the Giants rolled to a five-run inning, and the rest of the night was a San Francisco celebration. They will have Justin Verlander and the rested Tigers, who finished a sweep of the New York Yankees last Thursday, to deal with Wednesday. They will likely counter with Barry Zito, the veteran left-hander whose best effort in a Giants uniform was his last — seven scoreless innings in Game 5 to send the series back to San Francisco.
“Hopefully, next round, we’ll make it a little easier on ourselves,” Zito said.
In St. Louis, this collapse will go down in Cardinals lore. There is the joy of 11 World Series titles, most recently last year, and the steadfastness this group has shown — famously down to its last strike both in last year’s World Series and this year’s division series, and winning both.
But there are, too, notable instances when the stitches came undone. They lost three-games-to-one leads in the 1968 World Series to Detroit, the 1985 World Series to Kansas City and the 1996 NLCS to Atlanta. And now this.
“It’s just too bad this is the one they’re going to have to chew on for the whole winter,” Matheny said, “because this team has a lot to be proud of.”
So many Giants had their moments Monday night, with more still to come. The Cardinals’ moments, bizarre and otherwise, are over now. And those that might have prevented a ballgame from becoming a blowout belonged to Pete Kozma.