SAN FRANCISCO — It’s a long way from that horrible Sept. 28, 2011 evening at Camden Yards when the Red Sox completed a historic collapse in that month with a 4-3 walkoff loss to the Orioles.
Marco Scutaro, trying to carry on while playing with a battered and painful shoulder and neck, played shortstop for the Sox that night. He went 2 for 4 to finish the season hitting .299.
Scutaro has gone from what might have been the lowest point in his baseball career to the highest. Monday night he earned his first trip to the World Series by virtue of a 9-0 win by the Giants, whom he joined July 27 in a trade from Colorado, over the Cardinals.
Scutaro, who was named the National League Championship Series MVP, went 14 for 28 and showed his toughness after surviving a questionable takeout slide at second base by Matt Holliday in Game 2. Scutaro injured his left hip and knee in the collision, but contributed a huge two-run single before exiting that game early. He returned for Game 3 and had 12 hits the rest of the way, never giving in to the pain. In Monday night’s clincher, in which the Giants came back from being down in the series, three games to one, he went 3 for 4 and celebrated the victory in the pouring rain with his new teammates, running around the stadium waving and slapping hands with the fans.
Yes, a long way from Baltimore 2011.
“Feels like a long time ago,” Scutaro said. “That was something you like to forget.”
And this was something he will always remember.
“I’m just thankful to the Giants for [getting] me over here and allowing me to experience this,” Scutaro said.
When the Red Sox traded him to Colorado in the offseason they got pitcher Clayton Mortensen, a former No. 1 pick, in return.
Mortensen pitched well in his six stints with the Sox in 2012. Scutaro played for the disappointing Rockies most of the first half of the season. Four days before the trading deadline, Giants GM Brian Sabean, needing a hitter and a veteran presence, acquired Scutaro, who initially played third base, then was moved to second.
Sabean picked up yet another catalyst, just as he had Cody Ross in August of 2010. Ross had an extraordinary postseason, being named the NLCS MVP and helping lead the Giants to a World Series championship.
“They played with more heart and more determination than any club I’ve ever managed,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
The defending champion Cardinals had stormed to a 3-1 series lead, and they looked like a team possessed, one that seemed to be able to overcome adversity. The Giants, who also came back after being down to the Reds, 3-1, in the NLDS, were almost left for dead. But they rose up in Game 5 and were able to force a return to San Francisco, where they took the final two games.
Matt Cain dominated the Cardinals from the start, while Kyle Lohse couldn’t stop the momentum-filled Giants from scoring one in the first and another in the second. San Francisco then broke it open with five in the third to take a lead they weren’t about to give back. Because in the back of their minds, there was always the recollection of how the Cardinals had gotten here — by overcoming a six-run deficit against the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS.
The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the first when Angel Pagan and Scutaro singled, and Pablo Sandoval knocked one back to the Lohse, who had trouble getting the ball out of his glove as the run scored.
In the second, Cain helped himself with a two-out single, scoring Gregor Blanco.
There had also been a key defensive play by Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford in the top of the second. He leaped high on Lohse’s soft liner to take it down, preventing the Cardinals from scoring.
The big hit in the third was a bases-clearing double by Hunter Pence, on which center fielder Jon Jay made an error that allowed the third run to score. A couple of fielder’s choices produced two more runs.
Cain came out after 5⅔ innings, having allowed five hits and no runs. There was no need for him to be in any longer. The Giants bullpen took care of the rest as the Cardinals’ magic act ended.
The Giants got two wins from Ryan Vogelsong in the series, a key victory from Barry Zito, and Scutaro's many big hits.
The rain came down hard in the ninth. The mound had to be resurfaced. The infield was one large puddle. Former Red Sox lefty Javy Lopez couldn’t grip the ball and couldn’t finish off the Cardinals but Sergio Romo did.
The Giants ran around the field in the rain saluting the fans. Scutaro accepted his MVP trophy at the makeshift podium at second base, where he thanked the fans, his teammates, and management for trading for him.
It’s been a long time coming, and there was one painful night in Baltimore, but Scutaro stormed back.
He got to the World Series.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.