"I didn't know that," Ishikawa said. "I'm honored and blessed to be in the same category as Bobby Thomson."
The Royals, in contrast, are the upstarts, both historically and at the end of this unlikely season. Certainly, few expected them to be here.
But the Giants and Royals are two very evenly matched teams, and nobody knows that better than San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy. The Giants played the Royals three times at Kauffman Stadium this season, from Aug. 8-10, losing all three games and scoring just six runs. Kansas City is on a historic roll right now, having won all its postseason games, eight in a row heading into the Fall Classic.
"Tell me about it," said Bochy on Thursday night in the din of the celebration that gripped the inner sanctum of the ballpark and the environs around it. "We know what a roll they're on. They're so talented. They have great athletes and pitching. We keep saying, 'Keep winning. Have a chance, have a chance.' That's all we can ask, and we look forward to being there playing them."
The Giants finished the regular season with 88 wins, and they are on a historic postseason roll of their own that dates back to Game 5 of the 2012 NLCS against those same Cardinals. That's the game in St. Louis that Barry Zito won when the Giants trailed the Cards, 3-1, in that series.
Since the Zito game, San Francisco is 15-2 in the postseason, including wins in seven of its last eight playoff games over St. Louis. The Giants' current run includes a sweep of the Tigers in the 2012 World Series, their lopsided win over the Pirates in this year's NL Wild Card Game, and a four-game victory over the Nationals in the NL Division Series.
The Royals won 89 games this season, finishing only a game behind the Tigers in the American League Central. They came from behind twice to defeat the A's in the AL Wild Card Game, and they haven't lost since the next-to-last day of the regular season. After beating the A's in the AL Wild Card Game, they swept the Angels in the ALDS and the Orioles in the ALCS.
Like the Giants, the Royals have solid starting pitching, a stingy bullpen and great defense. Unlike San Francisco, Kansas City steals bases with abandon and will test Buster Posey's throwing arm from behind the plate. The Royals are far and away the postseason leader with 13 steals. They led the Majors this season with 153. They're not prone to a lot of pop, hitting 95 homers this season, dead last in the Majors. The Giants were 17th with 132, but they went through the first four games of the NLCS without hitting one until Ishikawa, Michael Morse and Joe Panik all connected in Game 5 on Thursday night.
The baseball world has gone gaga over Kansas City's bullpen, but here's a closer comparative study to San Francisco's relievers: After the Game 5 win, the Giants' 1.78 bullpen ERA is the best of the postseason, two ticks ahead of the Royals at 1.80. Kansas City's 'pen is 6-0 with six saves, and San Francisco is 5-1 with five.
Now factor in the starting pitching in the playoffs and look at the entire staff: San Francisco's ERA is 2.18, well ahead of Kansas City's 2.93. The Giants struck out 81 to the Royals' 69. San Francisco's WHIP is an unfathomable 0.95 to Kansas City's stingy 1.11. Opponents are batting .192 against the Giants, and .210 against the Royals. So pick your poison.
"I know a lot of those guys from when I was with the White Sox," said right-hander Jake Peavy, the probable starter for the Giants in Game 2 on Sunday night. "I know all those players, the special kind of bond they have. They're a scrappy bunch. They do a lot of stuff well and are extremely talented. We're going to be on our toes and be in a fight with them. That's all we can do.
"They're a complete ballclub. Speed, power. We're up against it against that pitching staff, that lineup and the way they play defense. But we believe, that's all I can tell you. We believe we can come up with a game plan and somehow get the job done."