SAN FRANCISCO Where has Hunter Pence been all these years? What was he doing in Houston and Philadelphia, and before that growing up in Texas, when he was born to be a Giant?
A broken-bat double. Ya gotta be kidding. Pence is an adventure waiting to happen, the kid who pesters his parents and tortures his third-grade teachers with constant activity, restless energy and a complete lack of patience.
But what a surprise. Just like the Giants. In the seventh game of the postseason that refuses to end a historic sequence of events that led to the Giants' second National League pennant in three years the veteran right fielder contributed the wild and crazy play that doomed the St. Louis Cardinals and characterized these wild and crazy few weeks.
Third inning. Giants leading 2-0. Bases loaded.
Pence who was hitting .163 in the postseason, who has lunged for outside pitches and looked silly on more than one occasion swung his two-toned bat and connected with reliever Joe Kelly's 95-mph sinker.
What happened next was a fantasy league moment, a sort of triple-hit that can't even be reflected in the box score. The bat shattered almost in half, yet somehow, the ball bounced along the wood and scooted across the middle of the infield. As Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma moved toward third base anticipating a potential double play the ball sliced in the opposite direction and continued into center field. By the time John Jay retrieved the ball, three runs had scored in the explosive five-run inning, igniting the party that lasted late into the night.
"I didn't feel it," the good- natured Pence said later, amid the champagne-soaked celebration in the clubhouse, "but apparently if you go to super-slow mo, that's what happened. I really can't explain it other than that."
That's so Giant of him, and so typical of these Giants. There isn't an overabundance of ego in their clubhouse these days, which contrasts sharply with the swaggering persona of 2010. These Giants are more of an ensemble act, an intriguing blend of young talent and veteran presence, and apparently, with a terrific, almost mystical sense of timing.
Six elimination games and six victories a turn of events almost as unforeseeable as that seeing-eye double by Pence.
If starter Matt Cain wasn't nearly as dominant Monday as his peers Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong were in the previous two outings, he secured the pennant with five stubborn, workmanlike innings and an RBI single in the second.
But about that help
Angel Pagan singled twice and was a defensive acrobat in center field.
Buster Posey showed off his powerful right arm and called another intelligent game. Brandon Belt played a smooth first base and struck for two hits, including a home run. Brandon Crawford was again a vacuum at shortstop. Pablo Sandoval stroked another single. Jeremy Affeldt pitched through the worst of the late downpour, and Sergio Romo finished it off, inducing series villain Matt Holliday into a harmless popup to second baseman Marco Scutaro for the grand finale.
Marco Scutaro. What about Marco Scutaro? One of Brian Sabean's two major midseason acquisitions (Pence being the other), he was the series MVP who did everything for the Giants except pop the popcorn. He hit .500, took a late hit from Holliday behind the bag, scooped up grounders, made all the right throws, said all the right things.
"I don't know at the end of the day how talented we are," Sabean admitted the other day, "but somewhere between 'we love to win and hate to lose,' it's been an interesting year.' "
And it's not over. The Cincinnati Reds, the St. Louis Cardinals, and next up, the Detroit Tigers. What can Justin Verlander be thinking after everything that has transpired out here? The Giants are cruising along so nicely, not even the Bay Bridge at rush hour seems enough to slow them down.