Cain Rising, Lincecum sinking, Wilson, Huff just plain missing
The Giants' top two starting pitchers could not have been moving in more opposite directions to start the season. Meanwhile, two staples of the 2010 world championship team were factoring out of the 2012 equation very quickly. (To make no mention of second baseman Freddie Sanchez, who never would make it back from rehabbing his balky throwing shoulder.)
April 6: Tim Lincecum hit hard on opening day by defending N.L. West champion Diamondbacks, who sweep Giants in Arizona. Lone bright spot: Melky Cabrera shows early pop, including a two-run homer in opener.
April 9: Barry Zito throws a four-hit shutout at Coors Field to earn Giants' first victory. It marks Zito's first shutout in nine years.
April 13: Giants shut out Pirates 5-0 behind Matt Cain's one-hitter in home opener at AT&T Park.
April 14: The bearded one goes down. Closer Brian Wilson opts for a second Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, ending his season, and putting the closer position in limbo.
April 18: Matt Cain and the Phillies' Cliff Lee deliver a classic, combining to throw 19 scoreless innings at AT&T Park. The Giants walk off winners on a Melky Cabrera RBI single in the 11th.
April 23: Aubrey Huff mysteriously leaves team overnight after suffering an anxiety attack in his New York City hotel room and returns home to Florida. Team places him on disabled list.
April record: 12-10
Standings watch: Trail L.A. by 3½ games
Melky's emergence, Vogelsong's statement, Pablo's (other) hamate bone
Melky Cabrera hit .429 in May with three homers, five triples, seven doubles and 51 hits -- and soon there were white-clad Melkmen walking the aisles at AT&T Park. Meanwhile the second year of Ryan Vogelsong looked stronger than ever, somewhat offsetting the injury-prone Panda and defensive spottiness.
May 2: Pablo Sandoval fractures a bone in his left hand while swinging at a pitch (he broke the right one in 2011), and is lost for 35 games.
May 3: The Giants get swept by the Marlins, scoring just five runs over three games. Bad defense creeping in: Team has made 28 errors in 25 games.
May 8: Vogelsong out-duels Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium in 2-1 victory, highlighting a 3-1 month that lowers his ERA to 2.36.
May 21: Backup catcher Hector Sanchez, becoming the favored target of Lincecum and Barry Zito, homers in the 14th inning to give Giants a 4-3 win in Milwaukee.
May 30: Lincecum loses 4-1 to Arizona, finishing 0-4 for the month. For the season he stands 2-6 with a 5.82 ERA.
May record: 15-14
Standings watch: 27-24, 5 back of L.A.
A pitcher-perfect Month, in so many ways
Throw out Matt Cain's night of brilliance, which resulted in the club's first-ever perfect game, and it was still a very good month for the Giants. From the starting rotation to the bullpen-by-committee -- namely the emergence of Santiago Casilla -- to the snatching of first place from the Dodgers, it was a fine month indeed.
June 4: Giants start the month off strong by sweeping a four-game set with the visiting Cubs. Madison Bumgarner, Cain, Zito and Vogelsong all tally wins.
June 9: The Giants get Sandoval back in the lineup, but the Texas Rangers take two of three at AT&T Park in a 2010 World Series rematch.
June 13: Gregor Blanco makes the catch of the year in right field and third baseman Joaquin Arias fights his way through a final-out throw to first, helping Cain complete the first perfect game in franchise history. It was just the 22nd ever thrown. The meek Astros were the 10-0 victims. Cain had a premonition: "The first time through the lineup, I felt like something could happen."
June 27: Lincecum, and that bullpen, help complete the sweep -- and three-game shutout -- of the Dodgers. That ties the two teams atop the N.L. West. Casilla tallied his seventh save of the month in Game 2 for a bullpen that got saves from five different players.
June 28: Bumgarner makes it four straight shutouts by beating the Reds. More importantly, he gives the Giants their first outright lead in the standings.
June record: 17-11
Standings watch: 44-35, up 1 on L.A.
All-stars galore and some very valuable acquisitions
Giants fans stuffed the box and, boy, did it work. Buster Posey, Cain, Cabrera and Sandoval not only made the team -- all were in as starters. The team scuffled its way to the break but began to steady things just as Brian Sabean was looking for ways to keep up with the hated rivals.
July 5: The Giants don't enjoy their visit to the nation's capital, yielding 24 runs over three games to the Nationals.
July 8: A fifth loss in six games, a shelling in Pittsburgh that leaves Lincecum 3-10 with an MLB-worst 6.42 ERA, sends the Giants limping into the All-Star break.
July 11: The Giants dominate the All-Star game, helping secure a World Series home-field advantage they now can enjoy themselves. Sandoval hits a three-run triple off Justin Verlander, Cain gets the win, Cabrera is the homer-swatting MVP.
July 15: No better way to begin the second half than with a sweep of the Astros. They follow it up by taking two of three against both the Braves and Phillies on the road.
July 28: Sandoval heads back to the D.L. with a strained hamstring. Hello, Marco Scutaro. The Giants acquired the utility infielder from the Rockies a day earlier in exchange for minor leaguer Charlie Culberson. Few imagined how big such a seemingly small acquisition might become.
July 29: The Dodgers, packing new acquisition Hanley Ramirez, complete a three-game sweep at AT&T, routing the Giants by a composite score of 19-3.
July 31: Hours after the Dodgers make another big splash by acquiring Shane Victorino from Philadelphia, the Giants send Nate Schierholtz and two minor leaguers to the Phillies for right fielder Hunter Pence.
July record: 12-12
Standings watch: 56-47, 1 up on L.A.
Spoiled Melk ACTS as a Dodger-killing igniter?
When the shocking news of Cabrera's suspension came down mid-month, with the Dodgers one game up in the standings and trade tricks still up their sleeve, it could've been a death knell. Instead the Giants rallied the clubhouse and won seven of their next nine, surging into September.
Aug. 1: Hunter Pence goes 0 for 4 in his Giants debut in 2-1 loss to Mets. It signals a marginal Giants beginning that never truly gets on track.
Aug. 8: After a sweep in Colorado, the Giants pound the Cardinals 15-0 at Busch Stadium, led by Scutaro's grand slam and seven RBIs. It's little surprise, as they lead the N.L. with an average of 5.17 runs per game on the road.
Aug. 15: Cabrera is slapped with a 50-game suspension for using a banned substance, ending his regular season and eventually his batting title hopes. (His .346 was tops, but he pulled himself from consideration.) That he didn't address teammates before departing and attempted to cover up his misdeeds with a phony website made the Giants' decision not to activate him for the NLCS an easy one.
Aug. 21: After Bumgarner had out-dueled the Dodgers' Kershaw the night before, Lincecum won his third straight outing on the road. That was followed by a Cain clincher for the sweep, giving the Giants a 2½-game lead.
Aug. 25: The Dodgers do it again, landing four players including slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and starting pitcher Josh Beckett in a trade with the Boston Red Sox. Gonzalez homers in his first at-bat.
Aug. 30: Vogelsong helps Giants sweep at Houston, extending the N.L. West cushion to a season-best 4½ games.
August record: 18-11
Standings watch: 74-58, 4½ up on L.A.
Giants gallop down homestretch, into postseason
Who'd have thought this team could go 25-9 after the Melky Cabrera suspension? That it could win 94 games without its ace closer or a rock-solid season from its starting staff? Or that Posey would be able to make it through the season, let alone post MVP numbers in what would become his first full major league season?
Sept: 2: The Giants cap a five-wins-in-six-days road trip with a 7-5 come-from-behind victory over the Cubs and head home at a season-best 18 games over .500 (76-58). The Dodgers would hang within reach for another week before their precipitous slide began.
Sept. 3: Scutaro's 10th-inning single produces a 9-8 victory over the visiting Diamondbacks, one that Posey calls "probably the best, if not THE best, win of the year." It's the sixth win in seven games, four by comeback, for the Giants, who trailed this one 8-5 in the eighth. Beginning of a torturous trend?
Sept: 9: On "Sunday Night Baseball" against the visiting Dodgers, Barry Zito throws 6-plus shutout innings in 4-0 win. The Giants extend their N.L. West lead to 5½ games over LA.
Sept. 14: In midst of four-game win streak, Giants' lead balloons to 7½.
Sept. 20: In midst of six-game win streak, Giants' lead hits 10.
Sept. 21: Posey wins Willie Mac award, team's most inspirational award as voted upon by players.
Sept: 22: Giants clinch their second N.L. West title in three years with 8-4 win over San Diego. Says team leader Posey: "This team is a great example of a lot of different guys getting it done on different nights."
Sept. 27: Posey pulls ahead of the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen in the batting race for the first time this season.
Oct. 3: Posey, the presumptive N.L. MVP, wraps up the batting title with a .336 average. (McCutchen finishes at .327.)
Sept./Oct. record: 20-10
Final record: 94-68, 8 ahead of L.A.
The Elimination Sensations of the NLDS and NLCS
NLDS - Giants beat Reds, 3-2
Game 1: Eight pitches and Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto (oblique strain) was done. Somehow, so were the Giants bats. Old nemesis Mat Latos did yeoman's work on zero notice, carving up a 5-2 win over Matt Cain.
Game 2: Next Reds ace up was Bronson Arroyo who stymied the first 14 Giants he faced en route to a 9-0 victory that saw just two San Francisco hits. Down 0-2, heading to Cincinnati.
Game 3: Ryan Vogelsong helped cool down the Reds bats, but his own team's remained icy cold. It took a 10th-inning error by eight-time Gold Glover Scott Rolen for the Giants to escape with a 2-1 win.
Game 4: It began with Hunter Pence firing up his team for a second straight day. Then Angel Pagan's leadoff blast set the tone for eight extra-base hits, and Tim Lincecum did masterful work out of the bullpen in an 8-3 win.
Game 5: A four-inning pitching duel between Cain and Latos was busted wide open by Buster Posey's fifth-inning grand slam, helping deliver a 6-4 victory and cap the historic two-games-down comeback.
NLCS - Giants beat Cardinals, 4-3
Game 1: Bumgarner gets battered in a 6-4 home opener, as Cards strike first.
Game 2: A hard -- some say dirty -- slide by Matt Holliday into Scutaro on a double play ignited the Giants' ire, and bats, with Scutaro ultimately accounting for the biggest hit on a play Holliday booted. Vogelsong battened down the hatches and it was all square with a 7-1 win.
Game 3: A 3-hour, 28-minute rain delay with two out in the seventh inning and the Cardinals ahead 3-1 on Matt Cain ended just so when play resumed.
Game 4: Seven innings of four-hit ball from Adam Wainwright and a failed return to the rotation for Tim Lincecum (four runs over 4 2/3s innings) combined to hand the Giants an 8-3 defeat and put them in a familiar position: On the brink.
Game 5: Barry Zito had not lost in 12 straight starts, and the $126 million dollar man was clearly not about to now in the most important start of his life. 5-0 Giants. Back to SF.
Game 6: Vogelsong was tasked with keeping it alive. Boy, did he ever. Seven innings, four hits, nine strikeouts in a 6-1 victory. Bring on Game 7!
Game 7: Cain brought his good stuff, and the Cardinals wilted meekly in the damp October night. Fittingly it was Scutaro who hoisted the MVP trophy above his head as the heaven's opened up in the aftermath of the 9-0 stunner.