By JANIE McCAULEY, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In a postseason full of twists and turns, the San Francisco Giants are headed back to the World Series after a remarkable comeback against the defending champs.
Hunter Pence got the Giants going with a weird double, Matt Cain pitched his second clincher of October and San Francisco closed out Game 7 of the NL championship series in a driving rainstorm, routing the St. Louis Cardinals 9-0 on Monday night.
San Francisco won its record-tying sixth elimination game of the postseason, completing a lopsided rally from a 3-1 deficit.
"We're going to the World Series, this is unbelievable," series MVP Marco Scutaro said.
The Giants, who won it all in 2010, will host reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Triple Crown slugger Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
Verlander is set to pitch Wednesday's opener at AT&T Park. Gianst manager Bruce Bochy insisted before Monday's game he had not planned any further in advance.
Scutaro produced his sixth multihit game of the series and matched an LCS record with 14 hits and Pablo Sandoval drove in a run for his fifth straight game.
"These guys never quit," Bochy said. "They just kept believing and they got it done."
After falling behind 3-1 in the series at Busch Stadium, the Giants outscored the wild-card Cardinals 20-1 over the final three games behind stellar starting pitching from Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Cain.
They also benefited from some strange bounces.
On Pence's double that highlighted a five-run third, his bat broke at the label on impact, then the broken barrel hit the ball twice more. That put a rolling, slicing spin on the ball and caused it to change directions — leaving shortstop Pete Kozma little chance to make the play. Kozma broke to his right, figuring that's where the ball would go, but it instead curved to left-center.
Injured closer Brian Wilson, with that out-of-control bushy black beard, danced in the dugout and fans in the sellout crowd of 43,056 kept twirling their orange rally towels even through rain in the late innings — a downright downpour when Sergio Romo retired Matt Holliday on a popup to Scutaro to end it.
"This rain never felt so good," Scutaro said.
Romo embraced catcher Buster Posey as fireworks went off over McCovey Cove beyond right field.
The NL West champion Giants won their first postseason clincher at home since the 2002 NLCS, also against the Cardinals.
These 2012 Giants have a couple of pretty talented castoffs of their own not so different from that winning combination of 2010 "castoffs and misfits" as Bochy referred to his bunch — with Scutaro right there at the top of the list this time around.
Acquired July 27 from the division rival Colorado Rockies, Scutaro hit .500 (14 for 28) with four RBIs in the NLCS. The 36-year-old journeyman infielder, playing in his second postseason and first since 2006 with Oakland, became the first player in major league history with six multihit games in an LCS.
Now, he's headed to his first World Series.
The Giants have All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera to thank for helping his teammates secure home-field advantage in the postseason — while Cain was the winning pitcher the National League's 8-0 victory in July. Cabrera was suspended 50 games Aug. 15 for a positive testosterone test, then wasn't added to the roster by the Giants after his suspension ended.
After rain fell on the Cardinals during batting practice, the skies turned blue and the weather cooperated. Anxious players on both sides hung over the dugout rails as the game began.
Cain joined St. Louis' Chris Carpenter as the only pitchers with victories in two winner-take-all games in the same postseason. Carpenter, who lost Games 2 and 6 in this series, did it last year.
Cain also pitched the Giants' Game 5 division series clincher at Cincinnati, when San Francisco became the first team in major league history to come back from an 0-2 deficit in a five-game series by winning three consecutive road games.