The San Francisco Giants' historic 2014 postseason run ended with their third World Series championship in five years, the first National League team to accomplish such a feat since the St. Louis Cardinals from 1942-1946.
Winning the 2014 title was probably the most difficult of the three. They had to endure an 18-inning game on the road in Washington, a Cardinals team that never quit, and a Cinderella-story Kansas City Royals team that pushed the Giants to Game 7 of the World Series.
Not to mention, the Giants had to make a run without their leadoff hitting catalyst Angel Pagan and with a rookie starting at second base. Their postseason horse Matt Cain was out for the season in July and every starting pitcher not named Madison Bumgarner struggled to make it to the sixth inning throughout the postseason.
But the resilient Giants still found a way to get it done, with their hard work rewarded with a parade down Market Street on Halloween.
From Bumgarner's complete-game shutout in the Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh to Pablo Sandoval's catch on a foul-ball popup to wrap up the World Series, the Giants had their fans on the edge of their seat all October--torture and all.
Here are the top five moments from the Giants' 2014 championship run:
5. Brandon Crawford's Wild Card Game Grand Slam
When the Pittsburgh Pirates reached the postseason in 2013 for the first time since Barry Bonds played for them, they already had a reputation for being a hostile crowd.. Surviving a PNC Park "Blackout" and a raucous, revitalized baseball fan base, the Giants quieted the crowd early, thanks to a big swing of the bat by shortstop Crawford--who is known more for his glove. The Wild Card Game had everything at stake for the Giants--a one game, win-or-go-home situation.
With the slam off Pirates starter Edinson Volquez, Crawford became the first shortstop to ever hit a grand slam in postseason history. The Giants moved on to the National League Division Series with an 8-0 win.
4. Brandon Belt's 18th Inning Home Run in NLDS Game 2
The Giants were not favored in the 2014 NLDS against the Washington Nationals. But after taking a 1-0 series lead, the Giants seemed to enter Game 2 in Washington on house money, with Game 3 shifting to San Francisco. Don't tell the Giants that. As they and the Nationals entered the 18th inning tied at one in the longest postseason game in baseball history, Belt looked to cap the night by sending the series to San Francisco with the Giants up 2-0.
This moment would not have been possible if Sandoval did not tie the game with two outs in the ninth inning with a clutch RBI-double. Jordan Zimmermann's 8 2/3 innings of shutting out the Giants went all for naught.
3. Joe Panik's Dives, Starts Double Play in World Series Game 7
Panik was not supposed to touch second base on a major league infield this season, but injuries to 2012 NLCS-MVP Marco Scutaro and a failed Dan Uggla experiment opened the door for the Giants' 2011 No. 1 draft pick. The rookie hit .305 in the 2014 regular season, but it was a defensive play in Game 7 of the World Series that halted a potential third-inning Royals rally. With a runner at first base and nobody out, Eric Hosmer nearly put runners at the corners in a 2-2 game.
The double play became official after Bruce Bochy challenged the safe call at first, the first call overturned on replay in World Series history. Had Panik not made the play, the dangerous Billy Butler, who was 5-for-15 in the Series, would have had a crack at putting the Royals on top.
2. Travis Ishikawa's Walk-Off Home Run in NLCS Game 5
When a player does something in the postseason that had not been done since 1951, it must make a top five list. The Giants looked to clinch the NL pennant in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals, but St. Louis was not making it easy. It took an eighth inning, game-tying home run by Michael Morse and an escape of a ninth-inning, bases-loaded jam to set up a historic moment for an unlikely hero.
The last Giant to hit a walk-off homer that clinch a National League pennant was Bobby Thomson in 1951 against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Like at the Polo Grounds in New York over 60 years ago, AT&T Park erupted. And Ishikawa said he almost retired from baseball a few months ago.
1. Madison Bumgarner Earns Save in Game 7 of the World Series
What Bumgarner did to lead the Giants to victory in Game 7 of the World Series was legendary. He did something baseball fans may never see again from a starting pitcher--pitch five innings in relief after throwing a complete-game shutout just three days before in baseball's biggest stage. It was almost like a throwback to the days of Sandy Koufax when the pitch count did not matter. With the Giants up 3-2 in Game 7 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, MadBum emerged from the bullpen. At stake was the Giants' third championship in five years.
In this episode of the Legend of Madbum, the fearless lefty had the longest save in World Series history, etching in stone his World Series MVP award. His final line: five innings pitched, two hits, four strikeouts, and most importantly, zero runs. And of course, the tying run had to be at third base with two outs in the ninth, before Sandoval caught Salvador Perez's popup to end the World Series.