SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants win the pennant? Did I hear someone screaming those words? Sorry, that would be incorrect.

The Giants did not win the pennant here Monday night. They steamrollered the pennant. They trampled the pennant. They bear-hugged the pennant into submission until it spouted the words: "OK, OK, you advance to Game 1 of the World Series, Wednesday night, 5:07 p.m."

And it felt good.

"Felt like I was a kid again," said Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, speaking of both the team's 9-0 victory in Game 7 and the strange giddiness of the final few innings that were played in a near-driving rain.

"The crowd was amazing," Pence said. "The crowd was cheering on the downpour. I mean, to have that many people cheering ... rain?"

At that juncture, why not? The outcome had been long decided. In fact, Monday might have been the most momentously thrilling, exciting, non-nail-biting, non-tense crucial game ever played at AT&T Park.

By the third inning, the Giants were ahead of the Cardinals by seven runs.

By the fourth inning, Giants' second baseman Marco Scutaro had already been on base three times.

By the fifth inning, during quieter moments, I swear you could hear all the way to Detroit, where the Tigers' charter flight was firing up for takeoff to SFO to prepare for a Tuesday workout here.

By the sixth inning, Giants' manager Bruce Bochy was dancing along to the "Gangnam Style" scoreboard video and hopping in time to the music as he walked to the mound and made a pitching change.

(OK, that one is not true. But it's a dandy image, don't you think?)

By the seventh inning, those aforementioned raindrops began to cascade in torrents from the sky and drench the paying customers. And no one cared.

By the eighth inning, the whole place was up for grabs as Brandon Belt parked a home run ball over the right field bleachers for the game's final run.

And by the final out, a popup to second baseman Marco Scutaro, the Giants were headed back to their second World Series in three seasons. The players celebrated by taking victory laps around the warning track muck and slapping the hands of front-row fans before retreating to the clubhouse champagne celebration.

"This is unbelievable," said Scutaro as he accepted the NLCS Most Valuable Player trophy.

Except it was not really unbelievable, if you witnessed the denouement with your own eyes.

Over the last three games of the series, with the Giants facing potential elimination each time, they outscored St. Louis 20-1 and simply played much better baseball than the Cardinals, who made error after error and couldn't get out of their own way. Mike Matheny, the St. Louis manager, more or less acknowledged this.





"The Giants were swinging the bat well and capitalizing on the mistakes that we made," Matheny said. "And you have to acknowledge the fact that when a team gets rolling, it's sometimes hard to stop them."

So here is my suggestion, just to make it more fair for the Tigers: Rulesmakers should force the Giants to play in elimination mode for the seven World Series games, forcing them to win all seven instead of just four. That might be the only thing harder to do than the what the team has already accomplished in this postseason.

Against the Reds in the best-of-five division series, the Giants were forced to win three straight games or be done. They did. And weren't.

Against the Cardinals in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, they were forced to win three straight games or be done. They did. And aren't.

"It's baseball," said Pence. "You can't explain it, even when you play it. These were two great teams going at it. But we got the series back to San Francisco, and we got hot at the right time."

Yet believe it or not, despite the rout-like score, there was a key turning point in Monday's game. It was provided by Pence in the third inning when he came to bat with the bases loaded and his team leading by just two runs.

As he faced Cardinals relief pitcher Joe Kelly, who had replaced ineffective starter Kyle Lohse, Pence demonstrated why video-game baseball will never replace real baseball. There is no video game that accounts for a broken-bat hit where the baseball hits wood three times on the same swing

That's what happened when Pence took his swing. The bat cracked near the neck and -- as was revealed on super-slo-motion replay -- the ball struck wood and floated for a millisecond, then hit more wood higher up on the barrel, then hit it one more time on the fat tip of the bat.

As a result, the ball knuckled out toward Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, who had broken to his right at contact, thinking the potential double-play ball was going that way. Instead, the spinning ball knuckled in the opposite direction after doing its triple-bounce off the bat.

With Kozma caught out of position, the ball skidded past him. And when center fielder Jon Jay followed with a throwing error after picking up the ball, all three baserunners scored. Giants 5, Cardinals 0. Five batters later, it was 7-0. And the rest was a party.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.