"I know that almost everything in baseball can be quantified, and there has been a lot of interesting sabermetric studies done," Lopez said. "Sometimes, though, playing winning baseball goes beyond the numbers. It might not sound like a logical argument, but there are times where you have to pass the eye test, too, rather just statistical analysis. That is the way we have been in the postseason. What we have been able to do when our backs have been against the wall is shift the pressure away from. We attack it as if the pressure is on the opponent because they are the ones who still have to win one more game to clinch the series. After awhile, it just becomes second nature and you start to believe that you won't lose."
San Francisco is certainly that type of team right now. That is why right-hander Matt Cain, valedictorian of the Class of 2002 at Houston High School in Germantown, Tenn., also can't give a fact-based explanation as to why the Giants have been able to play so well in times of great duress.
"I have no idea," Cain said with a smile. "Maybe because we don't know any better?"
However, the all of the Giants players say that manager Bruce Bochy's steady hand has played a major role in their success. Bochy led the Giants to a World Series title two years ago, their first since 1954, which was four years before the franchise moved from New York to San Francisco.
Bochy doesn't always get mentioned among the game's best managers. He is an old-school type who bases his decision more on baseball acumen and gut instinct than by consulting reams of statistics. However, the 57-year-old has lasted 18 years as a major-league manager, including 12 with the Padres, before moving up the coast to the Giants. He has compiled a 1,454-1,444 record and has won three NL pennants and six division titles.
"He's the best," Giants right-handed starter Ryan Vogelsong said. "Look at how we've been able survive some pretty big blows this season."
The Giants lost closer Brian Wilson early in the season to Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. Left fielder Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games on Aug. 15 for testing positive for excessive testosterone, ending a breakout season in which he hit .346/.390/.516 in 501 plate appearances with 5.1 WARP and a .332 TAv.
Bochy mixed and matched his bullpen, going with Santiago Casilla as the closer for most of the season, occasionally sprinkling in Lopez and Sergio Romo in save situations. He chose to go with Romo late in the season and into the postseason. Bochy also decided to stick with Gregor Blanco in left field even though the end of Cabrera's 50-game suspension coincided with the beginning of the NLCS.
"You have to deal with injuries or things that may happen, like Melky's situation," Bochy said. "What's important, as I've said many times, is not that it happens; it's how you deal with it. These guys were like focused forward. They never talked about it, they never dwelled on it, they never made excuses. Different guys helped pick us up when something did happen. You look how the bullpen by committee worked when Wilson went down and Blanco's play out in left field. It's been fun to watch how these guys have just done a good job of picking each other up."
However, Bochy is quick to deflect any credit for guiding the Giants this far. Bochy has never been one to seek the spotlight, and he is staying true to himself in one of his finest moments.
"It's all about the players," Bochy said. "I'm not just trying to shrug that off. I mean, it's great when you hear good things said about you, I guess. The players would feel the same. But you can't believe all the good things or the bad things, and that goes with managing, too, just second‑guessing things like that. My philosophy is to let the players go out there and play to win, just leave it on the field. I don't want players to be afraid to make a mistake, and I want them to know if they do make a mistake, hey, that's fine, as long as you're doing it in the right way, and that's being aggressive and trying to win a ballgame."