10/23/12 3:16 AM ET
Fresh Tigers-Giants matchup fitting for '12 playoffs
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
That's the 2012 postseason for you -- unpredictable, unscripted and delivering drama as unstoppable as raindrops pouring down from the heavens.And now that it's down to two teams, it will conclude with a World Series matchup never seen before in baseball's long history despite both teams being around for more than a century, each appearing in the Fall Classic many times in many eras but somehow avoiding each other in the game's greatest showdown. The San Francisco Giants will host the Detroit Tigers for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on FOX, and before this Fall Classic starts, it's already unique. The Giants have reached the World Series 19 times now, the Tigers 11 -- but never at the same time, until now. The Motor City and the City by the Bay, two classic venues for Major League Baseball, sharing baseball's biggest stage for a best-of-seven finale of a best-of-everything postseason. It all began with 10 teams for the first time and the inaugural Wild Card playoffs, a pair of won-and-done games. It became a daily spectacle unlike anything baseball's October festival has delivered in the past. Five series going the distance in a single postseason? Never happened before -- and there's still one series to go. A six-run comeback to claim a winner-take-all game? A three-game road comeback to close out another series? Also postseason firsts. Clinching in the pouring rain? That's a new one, too. With the Tigers waiting out their opponent in Detroit after sweeping the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, the Giants closed out their second three-game comeback of this postseason in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series with a convincing 9-0 shutout of the Cardinals on Monday night. It ended with the Northern California skies opening up over AT&T Park for the top of the ninth, dousing the fans and their Giants with rain as the final outs were recorded -- another minor detour on the Giants' wild ride to their second World Series in three years. "It was kind of like, 'All right, well, we can deal with this, too,'" said Ryan Vogelsong, who pushed the Giants into Game 7 with a brilliant Game 6 start. Once a high popup off the bat of Matt Holliday wound up, some would say with sweet irony, in second baseman and NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro's glove -- a bookend to their more violent meeting in Game 2 at the second-base bag -- the rain-soaked celebration began on the infield and continued for more than a half-hour afterward before heading into the clubhouse for a more traditional drenching, using champagne. "This is magical, man," Giants outfielder Angel Pagan said. "Being a first-timer in the playoffs and getting this far and then to win it in this fashion, it's awesome. There's one more step and we have to get ready for Detroit. We just have to go out there and get it done -- get it done all the way." Monday night's NLCS finale was a record fifth winner-take-all game in a single postseason, and that doesn't include the two Wild Card games. The old record was four win-or-go-home games, set three times (2001, '03, '11). It was also the first Game 7 victory in Giants history, following their loss to the Cardinals in the 1987 NLCS and four World Series. To get there this time, the Giants continued the 2012 postseason theme by throwing a few things out there in Game 7 that were beyond the norm. Ever seen a player string together six multihit games in a seven-game LCS? Not until Scutaro did in this NLCS. Ever seen the ball hit a broken bat three times? Probably not like Hunter Pence's key hit in Game 7, the visual aided with a super-slow motion camera. With the win, the Giants are only the second team to win three in a row to close out postseason series twice in one session, matching the 1985 Royals -- who rallied against the Blue Jays in the ALCS and then the Cardinals in the World Series. The Giants claimed their spot in the fifth World Series since moving to the West Coast in 1958 and second in three years by shutting down a Cardinals offense that had been as dangerous as any in the postseason, and the Giants' offense got into the act as well as San Francisco outscored St. Louis in the final three games of the series, 20-1. Of course, the Cardinals made their share of history in this postseason, making it back within reach of defending their World Series title, but falling just short. The Cards posted that six-run rally in Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the Nationals, vaulting themselves to the next level with an unprecedented surge. "It wasn't how we scripted it to finish, but it was certainly a great run that these guys need to be very proud of," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. But as the rain came down late Monday night, it was the Giants dancing around, celebrating a trip to the World Series amid the red mud and soaked turf. Said Pence: "A rainy night in San Francisco and we're going to the World Series. I couldn't be happier." So it's Giants-Tigers for the big trophy. The Old English D and the interlocked orange SF. The Hall of Fame history of Al Kaline and Hank Greenberg on one side, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey on the other. The MVP presence of Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey, the spectacular arms of Justin Verlander and Matt Cain. Two teams that have been there before, but never together. All in all, a perfect matchup to finish off the 2012 postseason: It's something you've never seen before, and it's something you're going to want to see.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.