This was the one, the performance for the Giants’ time capsule. If any future historian wants to know exactly why this team kept showing up in the postseason, and winning, bust out the four-hour spectacular from Saturday night.
Who knows if the Giants will even win this World Series? It was only Game 4, with a trip back to Kansas City now guaranteed. But this 11-4 win over the Royals was about the restoration of faith and reputations. So much was on the line. And about 19 guys came to the rescue.
Observing the final score from a distance, you’d have no idea this game represented the most severe brand of pressure the Giants have faced in their three-Series run. When they trailed 4-2 entering the fifth inning, people were saying a bitter farewell to Ryan Vogelsong as a Giant. Manager Bruce Bochy was getting hammered for his pitching strategy. The team’s defensive breakdowns in the third inning were so discouraging, Bochy actually removed his cap and fired it to the dugout floor.
In short, it seemed entirely possible the Royals could wrap it up right here Sunday, Madison Bumgarner’s presence notwithstanding. The team appeared to be falling apart, on a beeline for winter, in the ballpark that means so much to the team and a city.
And then everybody, almost to a man, decided it didn’t have to be that way.
“Our offense is sort of ... interesting,” said a smiling reliever Jeremy Affeldt. “We know we’re not really known to score 11 runs. But these guys just decided, you know what, let’s put together some good at-bats and see what happens. It just shows how focused we’re trying to be, and that’s why the World Series is so much fun.”
How fitting that the comeback started with Buster Posey, the ultimate mainstay, with a run-scoring single for 4-2. How heartwarming that Joe Panik, surely related to Posey in some abstract way, kicked off the two-run fifth inning with a roaring double to right-center. And then came the landslide.
By game’s end, 11 Giants had hits — and that isn’t easy to do. The No. 9 slot in the batting order featured singles by pinch-hitter Matt Duffy, pitcher Yusmeiro Petit (now we’re drafting into fantasy) and pinch-hitter Joaquin Arias. No National League team in World Series history ever got hits from 11 different people — but it was that kind of night.
“National League record, huh?” said Posey. “Petit got it done for us!”
Not to mention Petit’s three scoreless innings, a once-miraculous feat now considered strictly routine for that savior of a relief pitcher.
Hunter Pence’s contribution to this game was just ridiculous, a glowing kaleidoscope of clutch hits, desperate dashes and dugout camaraderie. You’d say he represents the very soul of this team, and you’d probably be right, but this night was a veritable stampede, no one individual standing above the rest.
Gregor Blanco? A brazen steal of third, against formidable catcher Salvador Perez, and two singles. Panik added a two-run double as the excruciating tension gave way to levity. Pablo Sandoval’s right-handed swing came alive on consecutive hard-hit singles, surely (and regrettably) jacking up his off-season market value. Brandon Belt singled home a run and turned a 3-6-3 double play that erased the memory of a poor throw in the third. Juan Perez was looking over his shoulder all night, wondering if Michael Morse might take over, but he came through with a single and sacrifice fly.
In the words of special contributor Will Clark, with his ever-wry grin: “You know, just spot ‘em a few, let the rain move out, and a track meet ensues (laughter). No, hey – it’s unbelievable to have 11 guys get hits. And it’s just so much fun. Everybody’s into it, the fans, the whole team, and nobody knows when this thing ends. That was a great National League game right there.”
For heaven’s sake, even Hunter Strickland got into the act. This was the perfect spot for Bochy to send him back into action, with a game in hand and no need to overwork the bullpen. When it ended, it was Strickland shaking Posey’s hand and feeling like a man at least partially redeemed.
“If we can play like that, we definitely have a chance to win this thing,” said Belt. “We never let (the 4-1 deficit) get us down. We just kept battling, because we have so much confidence. We’re not gonna let ourselves get scared or anything like that. Just a great team win.”
The Giants’ organization has become known for staging the classiest pregame ceremonies in baseball, and this one really stood out: Henry Aaron, the Little League champions from Chicago, 13-year-old Mo’Ne Davis throwing out the first pitch (beautifully), Carlos Santana performing the national anthem, and Bryan Stow – flanked by his magnificent benefactor, Tim Flannery – shouting “Play ball!” from a wheelchair.
It was an early evening of cheers, reflection, smiles and tears, and then came the ballgame, a worthy match. Hold tight to the memories, for they were built to last.
Bruce Jenkins is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @Bruce_Jenkins1