SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Angel Pagan let out a cheer as he ran in from center field with both arms raised after catching the final out to secure San Francisco its second NL West crown in three seasons.
Sure, the outfield around him looks a whole lot different than it did a month and a half ago when suspended All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera was still around leading the way.
The Giants were never fooled. They knew full well that much of the baseball world figured this club would flop after losing its best hitter to a 50-game suspension in mid-August for a positive testosterone test.
Hardly. The Giants put it out of mind in a hurry and kept on winning.
"The whole lineup has come to life," general manager Brian Sabean said as the champagne flowed in a celebratory clubhouse.
The Giants won the West with an 8-4 victory over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night, a few hours after the rival Dodgers did their part by losing at Cincinnati as the Reds clinched the NL Central.
"Some people in baseball were thinking, oh, we're in trouble because we lost a guy who was leading the league in hitting and was doing so much for us," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Yet this group never talked about it. They never even discussed it; they kept their focus forward and kept marching. If anything, I think it did bring guys together, saying, 'You know what, we still have a lot of talent in this room and we can still get this done.' And they showed it."
Now, with more than a week remaining on the schedule, Bochy and the Giants have plenty of time to put together their playoff roster and rotation — and rest up a little bit, too, before beginning a best-of-five divisional series.
"This is the first step," third baseman Pablo Sandoval said.
From losing All-Star closer Brian Wilson — whose 48 saves led the majors in 2010 — in April to Tommy John surgery and Sandoval to a broken hamate bone and two stints on the disabled list, and never having injured second baseman Freddy Sanchez as planned, the Giants have succeeded with so many different faces. Not unlike that eventual World Series squad of two years ago.
"That just says a lot about the character of this team," said Madison Bumgarner, Saturday's winning pitcher. "We've been through a lot of adversity, and a lot of different guys have stepped up, day in and day out. That says a lot about the guys we have on this team."
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