San Francisco, which owns a 2-0 lead in the World Series over the Detroit Tigers entering Saturday's Game 3 (4:30 p.m. PT air time on FOX, 5:07 PT first pitch), has continued to thrive offensively during the postseason. The Giants scored 28 runs in the first four games of their current five-game winning streak. Even Thursday, when San Francisco's bats reverted to the silent treatment in its 2-0 Game 2 victory, the club demonstrated its ability to execute. Gregor Blanco laid down his seventh-inning sacrifice bunt so perfectly that it wound up being a base hit, and Hunter Pence added an eighth-inning sacrifice fly.
The Giants have relied on each other, to a large extent. As many observers have come to understand, the primary influence among players has been Marco Scutaro, who many strive to emulate. Scutaro swung and missed on exactly 15 pitches in his 61 regular-season games with the Giants. No wonder the team finished with the NL's second-lowest strikeout total.
"I've always believed that your lineup can feed off certain hitters and their style of hitting, and I think Marco helped us when he came over here, just like a Buster Posey, who is patient," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Then we have a mix with [Pablo] Sandoval and Pence. They're a little bit more aggressive. But I think they all help each other in their different styles of hitting."
The Giants' styles may differ, but their objective is the same: Strive to hit pitches on a line drive down. That's the mantra preached by hitting coaches Hensley Meulens and Joe Lefebvre.
Meulens used layman's terms to explain the meaning of "line drive down," which has remained a fundamental hitting concept for decades.
"When you mishit a ball, you want to mishit it down," he said. "Over the last couple of years, we've had a couple of good guys who showed them how to do it. [Carlos] Beltran was great at it last year; Scutaro's been outstanding at it this year. They don't want to miss and hit fly balls. Especially at our park. It's an out.
"Think about an imaginary line right behind the infield dirt. You want to try to hit a ball on a line there. If you square it up, it's going to backspin to the gap or over the wall. If you're trying to hit the ball over the wall, and you mishit it, it's going to go straight up in the air. But if you're trying to hit that line drive down and you miss, you might hit a hard ground ball. Which is still something that can find a hole. The fly ball is not going to find a hole."
The Giants thrived collectively late in the season, finishing 38-19, as well as individually. First baseman Brandon Belt hit .329 over the final two months. Blanco batted .314 in his last 22 games. Angel Pagan hit .324 with 32 runs in August. Brandon Crawford posted a .289 average in his final 47 games.
"I think a lot of it is, some of these young guys just started to relax a little bit," Lefebvre said.
Two Giants in particular began to feel better. Posey, being further removed from the extensive left leg injury he sustained on May 25, 2011, enjoyed a monstrous second half. His .385 batting average and .456 on-base percentage following the All-Star break led the Majors. His .646 slugging percentage ranked second and his 60 RBIs were tied for fourth.
Sandoval hit .283 with 12 home runs in 396 at-bats during the regular season as he endured lingering discomfort from surgery to remove his fractured left hamate bone in early May. "It took him a little bit of time to get back to driving the ball," Meulens said. But as the pain dulled, he turned his year into a satisfying one by hitting six home runs with a .368 batting average thus far in the postseason.
Said Sandoval, who tied a Series record by hitting three home runs in Game 1 against Detroit, "I knew that strength was going to come back. It came back at the right time."
Improved patience also has helped Sandoval.
"He's laid off a lot of pitches that he swung at when he first came up here, and that's growth as a hitter," Bochy said.