Gritty Giants are a resilient group

Gritty Giants are a resilient group

Gritty Giants are a resilient group
SAN FRANCISCO -- Asked what separates this Giants team from the five other clubs he has played for during his 11-year Major League career, Marco Scutaro began droning about pitching and defense.

Then he got to the point.

NLCS

"It's a team that never gives up," Scutaro said. "We're always fighting. Always."

Competing is what the Giants do best, as general manager Brian Sabean has pointed out more than once. They lacked power, their once-dominant starting pitchers endured inconsistency and the offense needed more than half a season to gain a knack for situational hitting.

But the Giants handled adversity with calm and reacted to pressure with controlled urgency.

These traits helped San Francisco weather the loss of three-time All-Star closer Brian Wilson to injury for virtually the entire season and cope with the 50-game suspension on Aug. 15 of left fielder Melky Cabrera for testing positive for testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance, which might have dented the psyche of many clubs.

The Giants' peaceful, easy toughness also facilitated their historic National League Division Series comeback from a 2-0 deficit against the Reds. It has continued to sustain them against St. Louis in the NL Championship Series. Trailing in the series, 3-1, the Giants took the first step toward completing another remarkable reversal by winning Friday's Game 5, 5-0. That brought the series back to AT&T Park, where it will resume with Game 6 on Sunday (4:30 p.m. PT on FOX).

The Giants have no margin for error. They seem to prefer matters that way.

"We have the same mentality that we had in Cincinnati. We have no choice. We have to win," left-hander Jeremy Affeldt said. "Sometimes it's good for athletes to be in that situation. Sometimes when you feel like you have time, you kind of let off the throttle a little bit. Now we don't have time. We're at full throttle. We're all going to be ready to go after it. It's a credit to this team."


"We have the same mentality that we had in Cincinnati. We have no choice. We have to win."
-- Jeremy Affeldt

Said Game 6 starter Ryan Vogelsong: "When you can't lose, I think we definitely do play a little harder."

Yet the Giants understand the pitfalls of dwelling on the must-win imperative.

"If we think about it too much, I think we put too much pressure on ourselves," shortstop Brandon Crawford said.

As natural-born competitors, they're not overwhelmed by this pressure.

For generations, the Giants have been a superstar-oriented team. The lineage began in New York with Christy Mathewson and Bill Terry and continued with Mel Ott, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Jack Clark, Will Clark, Barry Bonds and Tim Lincecum.

Now they're a bunch of scrappers, the type of club rarely found in orange and black. Lincecum's still around, but he slumped to 10-15 this year. Though Buster Posey is emerging as a marquee performer, he's a catcher who gets his uniform dirty each day.

"If you look at our lineup, you have guys like Scutaro, who never swings and misses. He just keeps fouling balls off until he gets a base hit," Crawford said. "[Brandon] Belt, [Gregor] Blanco, me at the bottom of the lineup, we're not big-name guys. We just try to get on base and get guys in."

Many of the individuals Sabean has added since last season have contributed to the Giants' character.

Boxing aficionado Angel Pagan comprehends the importance of aggressiveness. "Fighting like an upside-down cat," one of his favorite phrases, reflects his approach to the game.

Hustling Hunter Pence probably has never jogged in his life. His penchant for motivational talks, which teammates rallied around, reflects his relentless passion.

Scutaro's reputation as a winner preceded his arrival in San Francisco via a July 27 trade. Cody Ross, hero of the 2010 NLCS, commanded similar respect from his teammates when he joined the Giants.

Blanco was signed as a Minor League free agent who never has had anything handed to him. Giving up isn't in his DNA.

Joaquin Arias is the youngest of 21 siblings, whom he tries to support financially when he can. He knows all about playing with hunger.

Ryan Theriot, who lost his everyday job at second base when Scutaro began to excel, has set an example by refusing to complain and thus embodying the team concept.

Thus, there was no need for Pence or anybody to deliver a speech before Game 5.

"Everybody knew what was going on," Scutaro said.

Twenty-five men, one mindset.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.