Jonathan Sanchez saves Giants, who reach postseason for first time since ‘04

San Francisco Giants Freddy Sanchez reacts after scoring a run against the San Diego Padres during the third inning of their MLB National League baseball game in San Francisco, California October 3, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

In the end, the Giants’ most inconsistent starter over the past couple of years was the one who saved their season.

Jonathan Sanchez lasted only five innings on Sunday, but he held the Padres to no runs on three hits as the Giants shutout San Diego 3-0 to win the NL West. Sanchez also sparked what had been a lifeless offense the past two days by roping a triple in the third inning off Mat Latos and scoring on a Freddy Sanchez (photo) single two batters later. Aubrey Huff doubled home Sanchez to give the Giants a 2-0 lead, while rookie Buster Posey homered in the 8th to cap the scoring.

The Giants have been waiting a long time for the talented Sanchez to put it all together and they were rewarded for their patience. He was nearly traded several times over the past two years, but credit GM Brian Sabean for knowing what he had and not selling low. He finished the year 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA and obviously saved his best performance for last.

It’s kind of amazing that the hero wound up being Sanchez and not Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain. That’s not a knock on Sanchez, but I’m sure many Giant fans thought it would have been Cain that won the deciding game on Friday night and not Sanchez on the final day of the season. And heading into today, I’m sure there were plenty of fans that thought Lincecum would have to save the season in a one-game playoff with San Diego on Monday. But Sanchez truly bailed the Giants out after Cain and Barry Zito were hit hard in their respective starts the past two days.

The Giants will now face the Braves next Thursday in San Francisco, while the Phillies host the Reds starting on Wednesday. General baseball fans may not be thrilled with the match ups, but it’s great to have new teams like the Reds and Giants completing in the postseason. Three of these four teams have great fan bases (sorry Atlanta fans, but on a whole you’ve proven that you don’t give a crap) and the energy in Cincinnati and San Francisco right now is fantastic.

This is, without a doubt, the best time of year in sports. Football and playoff baseball? Outstanding.

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