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Best Postseason Games: 2010 NLCS Game 6

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Would the future really be different this time?

San Francisco Giants v Philadelphia Phillies, Game 6 Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

If you’ve spent any time at all this decade reading or listening to famed internet commentator Grant Brisbee, then you know his Giants’ Butterfly Theory. If Brooks Conrad didn’t happen there would be no rings. If Buster Posey’s four-hit game in Game 4 didn’t happen... if Jonathan Sanchez’ triple didn’t happen... if Timmy’s lightning bolt opening act...

If if if.

If 2010 didn’t happen, would anything else have come after? It all hinged on the first victory, on 2010. And 2010 hinged on Game 6 and on taking down the mighty champion Phillies. As Giants fans we had been down this road, we were programmed to know what heartache lay ahead. And then... for once... that heartache just wasn’t waiting there at all.

Game 6 was the moment when the timeline might have shifted into an alternate reality — one with Biff Tannen buying the Dodgers and running them to 10 consecutive World Series championships (if I recall Doc Brown’s explanation of the Butterfly Theory correctly).

In the rush and flow of subsequent Giants’ history — the manifest destiny of bullshit to come — the stakes of that night in October 2010 may have become lost to us. But this was the night when it all first became possible. Tangibly, palpably, possible. As home plate ump Tom Hallion rung up the delirious end, the dream of a San Francisco championship took a momentous step forward — from wishing to becoming. So journey with me back to the future, to the night the Giant’s Dynasty was really born.

See! Buster’s excited!

“I Knew I was Going to Throw Everything At Them”

How long ago was this game? Famed twitter bon homie and author of mind-bending esoterica Jon Bois was writing SB Nation story stream updates for the game and covering it perfectly straight. Or another way to measure it: Bruce Bochy wasn’t yet thought of as postseason genius. But the National League Championship Series of 2010 was a big step forward along that road, as the Giants manager aggressively pushed the right buttons throughout — double switching three different times in the classic Game 4 victory for instance — leaving poor Charlie Manuel hopelessly outclassed.

Game 6 would be a Bochy masterpiece, combining strong pre-game planning with perfect in-game instincts. Start with the planning. Bochy was adamant that he didn’t want the series to go to a climactic game 7 and intended to use every weapon at his disposal to end things right there and then. It was, in other words, nearly the opposite approach he would take to a Game 6 four years later when he essentially waived the white flag against the Royals early on, so as to set himself up for a Game 7 that would give him the weapons he wanted — and needed to deploy. He was, as ever, adaptable to the situation at hand, guided by context.

In both examples — 2010’s Game 6 and 2014’s Game 7 — Bochy had a game plan for a quick hook if his starter looked shaky. Jonathan Sanchez had been a huge part of the Giants making the 2010 playoffs, and was fantastic in his post-season debut against the Braves. But he’d been hit hard in his Game 2 start against the Phils and Bochy was prepared to be on guard against another poor outing in Game 6.

Another connection to that night in Kansas City is the two guys Bochy planned to hand the ball off to in the case of a quick exit from the starter: first man up was going to be Jeremy Affeldt and if they needed more length to get through the middle innings Affeldt would hand it off to Madison Bumgarner.

Preparing that contingency script famously caused bullpen coach Mark Gardner to prevent Affeldt from rushing onto the field with his bullpen mates to leap around concernedly during the odd 3rd inning dustup between Sanchez and Chase Utley.

Sanchez never threw another pitch, having allowed 2 first inning runs and six baserunners in his 2+ innings. By the time order was restored, Affeldt was warmed up and ready to come in to the two-on, no-out situation. Affeldt dispatched the Phillies with no damage done, starting a run of 7 scoreless innings for the Giants’ relief corps which would include 12 the starting pitchers on the post-season roster (Bochy the cutting-edge trendsetter!).

The 21-year old Bumgarner had gone just 4.2 IP in his Game 4 start and was strong enough to give the team two more innings. He was far from the post-season legend he would become (though he would start burnishing that legend a week later in the World Series), but he escaped a bases loaded situation in the 5th and worked through two, slightly shaky, scoreless innings to bridge the team through to the 7th where Javier Jopez came on for the fifth time in the series and pitched a clean inning.

At that point, that game had been tied 2-2 for four innings, with the Giants scoring the tying run in classic Ground Attack style: a two-out error from Placido Polanco on a Buster Posey nubber. All of which set the stage for one of the most important swings of the decade.

Prior to the game, beat writer Andrew Baggarly had asked Juan Uribe how he felt about the game, and Uribe didn’t shy away from the moment.

“I’ll do something, you’ll see,” he said.

I held out my palms, in Uribe’s signature “jazz hands” home run pose.

“Yeah, like that,” he said. “POWW!”

POWW it was. The lone off-field homer of Uribe’s 26 HRs hit that year just snuck out of Citizens Bank Park. Which, in addition to some hard hit outs from the Home 9 was apparently enough to put some Phillies fans in a surly mood:

There was some tension before those funeral parking instructions could come. Bochy’s move to go to Timmy with the 3-2 lead didn’t work out quite like he’d hoped, and Brian Wilson got out of the jam thanks to that “fluke double play” described above. And despite turning the screw all the way to “Maximum Barf” tension in the 9th, Wilson delivered the team to glory, and not for the last time that fall (but that’s probably a different retrospective story).

highlights

And that was it. The Kings were dead. The future was suddenly unwritten. It was all really happening.