PHILADELPHIA -- It took 12 years for Bruce Bochy to manage his way back into the World Series, and there are many similarities between the two teams.Like this year's Giants, the 1998 Padres faced a powerhouse in the National League Championship Series and were clearly the underdogs going in. Like the Phillies, the Braves were the class of the era and would go to the NLCS every non-strike year from 1991-99, winning five pennants and the '95 World Series. In '98, the Padres had a 3-1 lead in the series, dropped Game 5 at home and went to Atlanta for Game 6 with Sterling Hitchcock on the mound against Tom Glavine. They won, 5-0. This year, the Giants had a 3-1 lead against two-time-defending NL champion Philadelphia, lost Game 5 at home and had to go back to Philly to face Roy Oswalt with Jonathan Sanchez on the mound. They won, 3-2. "I think it was similar in the way that we had to come in, face a team with a great pitching staff and win a game," Bochy said on Saturday night. "It was the same situation." The Padres won 98 games in '98 with a great starting staff and a superlative closer. It was Hitchcock, Kevin Brown, Andy Ashby and Joey Hamilton at the front end, with Trevor Hoffman at the back end. The Giants won 92 games this year with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Sanchez at the front end, and Brian Wilson at the back end. The Padres defeated a Braves team that won 106 regular-season games. This year, the Phillies led Major League Baseball with 97 wins.
"We pitched well," Giants long-time general manager Brian Sabean said. "I'm a little bit frustrated that we didn't get more credit in this series for pitching well. That should have been the compliment, rather than 'What happened to their hitting?' We shut them down. That's the bottom line."The factor common to those Padres and these Giants is a man they lovingly call "Boch," a career backup catcher who batted .239 over nine seasons for three teams -- the Astros, Mets and Padres. Bochy is a man who also played for the 1984 NL champion Padres and has managed 16 big league seasons -- 12 with the Padres and the last four for the Giants, taking over a franchise in 2007 that was in the final year of the Barry Bonds era and in complete disarray on the field. It says a lot that, over those 16 seasons, Bochy has worked for only two general managers: Kevin Towers in San Diego and Sabean, who has been in the job for the Giants since 1996. "[Bochy is] the most understated and underrated manager in baseball," Sabean said. "The guy just amazes. He has a great way in the clubhouse, whether it's behind closed doors or mixing with the players on the plane. I can't tell you how much I love the relationship I have with him, and more so, being able to do this together." What may be even more amazing is the way Sabean and Bochy came together. At the end of the '06 season, Sabean decided to move the iconic Felipe Alou into a scouting and consulting role that he still occupies. Bochy was coming off back-to-back NL West-winning seasons in San Diego, though the Padres were beaten easily by the Cardinals in both the 2005 and '06 NL Division Series. Bochy had a year to go on his contract, but Sandy Alderson, since departed, had taken on the role of chief executive and wanted a younger manager to lead the team. It was no secret that Alderson wasn't enthralled with Bochy's style, and that word tickled Bochy's ears as it filtered to the dugout. During his search for a new manager, Sabean called the Padres and was ecstatic when he was given permission to talk to him. The Giants offered Bochy a three-year deal. He could have returned to the Padres, but Bochy opted for the security. Alderson hired Bud Black, which turned out to be a terrific move for the Padres. Four years later, the two teams battled to the last day of the regular season for the NL West title or a Wild Card berth. The Giants beat the Padres at AT&T Park to win the West, giving the Braves the Wild Card, and sending the Padres home. The Giants defeated the Braves and the Phillies, and here they are, with a chance of winning the World Series, which is something Bochy couldn't get done as either a player or manager in San Diego. The Giants, who play the upstart Rangers this time around, are in the World Series for the fourth time since they began play in San Francisco in 1958, and their first since 2002. "Oh, we couldn't be happier for the fans," Bochy said. "It's been a while for them, and they've had some great teams to follow over the years. This is a different type team. One guy didn't carry this club. We didn't have one star. We had contributions from everybody and found a way to get it done. "The city has embraced us. You can tell by the support they've given us. I've got to thank Brian for giving me all these castoffs and misfits. The team had one mission -- to get to the World Series -- and we did it." Sounds familiar.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.