SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The San Francisco Giants have proven themselves to be elimination experts.
Just rewind two Octobers ago, when the Giants overcame six elimination games on the way to their second World Series championship in three years.
No doubt this year will be different. San Francisco must win Wednesday at Pittsburgh to advance into the best-of-five NL division series against the NL East champion Washington Nationals.
Manager Bruce Bochy has plenty of players still around from the core of the roster two years ago who went through all those remarkable comebacks, such as becoming the first team in major league history to rally from a two-game deficit in a five-game series by winning three consecutive road games to beat Cincinnati.
Then, San Francisco won three more elimination games to beat the Cardinals in the NLCS.
“Well, sure, for our club, that’s invaluable experience,” Bochy said. “You look at the clubs we’re looking at playing, they’ve been through it, too — Pittsburgh, they’ve been in that game. That’s all relative, really.”
San Francisco (88-74) hopes to regain a postseason swagger with many of the same faces who have done this before. From Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence, to pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum.
Lefty 18-game winner Bumgarner will pitch Wednesday night.
“It never gets old, especially for these guys,” said Lincecum, who pitched the Game 5 World Series clincher in 2010 and was a key reliever in the ‘12 title run. “We’ve been through a lot together, ups and downs. But once you get through that door, this is when we look to do something great.”
The Giants spent 96 days in first place and led the division by 10 games on June 9 despite the absences of injured stars Matt Cain, Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan for long stretches of the season. Then, they stumbled through September and lost nine of their final 15.
“They had a tough week. Something like this can lift their spirits,” Bochy said of getting back to the playoffs.
“If it helps relax some guys, great. I told them what a great job they’ve done because we’ve had some ups and downs.”
During his time with Atlanta, Giants right-hander Tim Hudson watched the Braves lose the one-game wild card two years ago 6-3 to St. Louis on a controversial infield fly call that prompted irate fans to throw bottles and trash and delay the game at Turner Field.
“I just don’t like it because a lot of times the better team don’t win,” Hudson said. “If it was a three-game series I think you’d have a better chance of having the better team come out of it. Anybody can beat anybody on one day. You can have the worst team in baseball and they throw their ace against anybody, they’re going to have a chance to beat them. ... It’s just unfortunate a 162-game season is going to come down to one game.”
Bochy understands Hudson’s concerns.
While the wild cards create a September buzz with so many clubs still involved in the chase, he would appreciate a short series instead. Bochy is counting on the two off days — Monday and Tuesday — allowing his regulars to rest and recover.
“It’s created a lot of interest in baseball, I’ll say that. A lot of people like that one-game deal, a Super Bowl-type thing,” Bochy said. “If I had my druthers, I’d rather see two out of three, three out of five or more to give you a little margin for error. But, hey, this is something that’s fairly new in baseball and I will say that one game, I enjoy watching it. But now that I’m in it, I’d like to have two out of three.”