MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Giants playing like a team on a mission

Ringolsby: Giants playing like a team on a mission

Giants playing like a team on a mission
SAN FRANCISCO -- Only one team has rallied to fight off six elimination games in baseball's postseason history.

And by the end of the day on Monday, those 1985 Kansas City Royals, who overcame three-games-to-one deficits to both the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series and the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, could well have some company.

The San Francisco Giants are knocking on the door.

And after the way the 2012 Giants rallied to overcome a two-games-to-none deficit in the NL Division Series by becoming only the second team in history to win all three games of a best-of-five series on the road, and the first to do it in three consecutive games, nobody's about to write them off.

NLCS
First Barry Zito pitched what was the most critical game of his career, working 7 2/3 scoreless innings in a 5-0 victory at St. Louis in Game 5 of the NLCS on Friday, and then Ryan Vogelsong allowed one run and struck out a career-best nine, with five of his first six outs accounted for by strikeouts to set a tone for his teammates in a 6-1 victory at AT&T Park in Game 6 on Sunday.

And now it's time for Matt Cain, the ace of the Giants staff, looking to make amends for a 3-1 loss in Game 3 at St. Louis. It was just 11 days ago that Cain, after having lost Game 1 in the NLDS against Cincinnati, got the start and win in Game 5, capping off that Giants comeback to advance to the NLCS.

"I wouldn't say we like it," Cain said of the pressure to win three in a row or be sent home, "but it seems like guys are really playing well when we get in this situation. Guys are just kind of letting it all hang out, and it seems to be working out real well."

What the Giants like is that with their season at stake, their bid to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years rests in the hands of Cain, who not only was 16-5 in the regular season but also saw the Giants win 21 of his 32 starts.

"We have our best going," said Giants reliever Sergio Romo. "We know he's going to give us the opportunity to win."

So do the fans in the consistently sold-out AT&T Park appreciate Cain. But then those fans appreciate pretty much every player in a Giants uniform. And the Giants appreciate those fans. Romo is quick to credit them with being a factor in the team's success.

"I can't describe how great they are," said Romo. "You can feel the energy. This city deserves our effort."

It has been an impressive effort. They held off the headline-grabbing Los Angeles Dodgers to claim the NL West. They rallied to stun a Cincinnati team with three consecutive wins at Great American Ball Park, where the Reds won a Major League-best 51 regular-season game. And now the Giants have avoided elimination with back-to-back wins against the defending World Series champions.

"It says a lot about character," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "We know what's at stake, and to get to this point, we're excited. You go out there and play like there's no tomorrow.

"These guys have done a great job of it. They are keeping their poise, and finding ways to get it done."

Good thing the Giants have been playing like there is no tomorrow, because on Monday night (8 p.m. ET on FOX), for the sixth time 13 days, the Giants will be playing a game that if they lose, there will be no tomorrow.

And these Giants do enjoy being around each other, so there's no sense of urgency on their part for the season to end. They'd rather pack to go to Detroit for the middle games of the World Series than to go home for the winter.

"We've got a bunch of guys in here who want to see their teams one more day, every day," said second baseman Marco Scutaro. "We've got a bunch of guys in here who all feel a part of what has been happening this season."

And they should. This has certainly been a team effort by the Giants. They are one win away from advancing to the World Series, and some of their big guys have not been big in the postseason.

"It is what it is," said Romo. "We don't know how to quit. We believe in ourselves. We believe we deserve to be here."

That's even though Cain has lost two of three starts. That's despite No. 2 starter Madison Bumgarner's struggles being concerning enough that he was dropped from the NLCS rotation. That's with cleanup hitter Buster Posey going 3-for-18 with an RBI in the NLCS and a combined 7-for-37 in the postseason. And that's with Hunter Pence, Posey's supposed protection in the No. 5 slot, following up a 4-for-18 NLDS with a 2-for-19 NLCS, with has one RBI in his 37 at-bats.

But then there is Zito coming up big on Friday in St. Louis, Scutaro hitting .458 in the NLCS and putting together a nine-game postseason hitting streak, one shy of the Giants' record, and the resurgent Pablo Sandoval, hitting a postseason .326 with 10 hits and five RBIs in the Giants' six playoff victories.

"I expect this team to show up [for Game 7] ready and willing to fight," said Romo. "We respect St. Louis, but we are not afraid. We've shown that the last two games. We've done a lot here and we've got some more to get done.

"We are one win away from the World Series. I know what a feeling it was for us in 2010, and I want to have the feeling again. It's fun."

Fun as it may be, the Giants have certainly taken a challenging route to get to where they are this October.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.