PHILADELPHIA -- The San Francisco Giants knew the script before the rest of us watched it play out.
They've seen enough of themselves to know that the National League Championship Series title they claimed with a 3-2 win in Saturday night's Game 6 would have to culminate on the road, in a one-run game, with one of the game's more dangerous hitters at the plate and two men on base.
It couldn't be a breathe-easy blowout, because that's simply not how these Giants operate.
"We talked about it for the last week," said closer Brian Wilson, whose slider low in the zone froze Ryan Howard for strike three and put the Giants in their first World Series in eight years. "We knew when we finally do this, we're going to look at each other and say, 'This was well-earned. It was exhausting, it feels good and it's going to be that much better of a celebration.'"
Sure, they would have liked to celebrate after Game 5, with an amped-up crowd packed into AT&T Park.
But it took one more cross-country flight, one more comeback, one more tortuous ninth to vault them into the Fall Classic against the Rangers.
And it all felt apropos.
"You get a lot of people, family and friends, telling us we give them a heart attack with these games," second baseman Freddy Sanchez said. "But we've been prepared for these games. We've had them all year, we had them against the Padres to clinch our division, we had them in the Division Series and we have them now."
The byproduct of all these close calls is the dismissive nature of the national audience. Everybody outside the Bay Area keeps waiting for the magic to run dry for these Giants. But it's late October, and that wait continues.
"They're hot right now, and they're doing all the little things right," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "Sometimes, that's even more important than how good you are."
The Giants clinched on the final day of the season, sent Bobby Cox into retirement in the NLDS and knocked off Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels to steal the Phillies' chalice. They've been counted out all year, and they'll likely be counted out again when the World Series begins Wednesday.
But maybe it's time to believe.
Maybe it's time to accept that Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey and Cody Ross can do what Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Will Clark, Matt Williams, Kevin Mitchell, Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow and Barry Bonds never did: Win a World Series title in San Francisco.
It might have seemed unfathomable a few months, a few weeks or even a few days ago. Heck, it even felt a bit unfathomable early in a dramatic Game 6.
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Yet the Giants are here because they persevere. They win with dominant starting pitching from Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez and a ragtag lineup that seems to change by the day. Only two members of the Opening Day lineup, Huff and Juan Uribe, remain regulars today.
"This," general manager Brian Sabean said, "was a work in progress."
And the work made the reward all the more fulfilling.
Sabean will get the credit for piecing the current construction of this club together when injuries and ineffectiveness dictated adjustments on the fly.
But to hear him tell it, Sabean made the process sound rather simple.
"When you have the kind of pitching staff we have," Sabean said, "you can mix and match, you can experiment, you can decide how and when you're going to bring people up from the Minor Leagues, you can bring people in from the outside that are a waiver claim or have been released, because you really have nothing to lose. You know that the pitching's going to be there on most days, and why not try to do something, either with somebody's past experience or just the opportune moment to get somebody on the ballclub?"
The swell that propelled the Giants to the postseason, and ultimately the World Series, came in September, when the starting staff rattled off a streak of 18 consecutive games in which they allowed three earned runs or less.
"That just galvanized everything," Sabean said, "and loosened everything up."
The Giants have played loose throughout this postseason because so little was expected of them. Their lack of starpower, outside of Lincecum, is probably the key to their coexistence. This is a team that doesn't get ahead of itself, rarely beats itself, and most of all, believes in itself.
"You've got every single guy contributing," Wilson said. "You don't have one guy you're going to look at and say, 'Oh, yeah, that was the guy. He hit 75 home runs, or he didn't have an ERA and won 25 games.' You're going to look at the guy that stole second base or got called up and scored against Colorado on an errant throw, you're going to look at Cody Ross coming over and hitting three jacks in the LCS and winning MVP. You're going to look at every single guy, and his role was a key component in why we're here. It's a team effort. It really is."
If they were overlooked before, they won't be after taking down the Phillies. The Giants won this series because manager Bruce Bochy always had a feel for the right lineup to use on a particular day, because they had the weapons in the rotation to counter the Phils' Big Three, because Ross always had the clutch hit and because Wilson is a master of the multi-inning save.
And those are merely the obvious reasons. After all, this is a team of moving parts and rotating heroes, so it's hard to pin down one positive.
But the steely resolve the Giants showed in Game 6 probably says it all.
"The whole nation," Huff said, "just saw how we played baseball all year."
It is torture at its finest.