SAN FRANCISCO -- When Marco Scutaro finally awoke late Tuesday morning, he asked himself an important question.
"I was like, was (that) a dream last night?"
No, Marco, it was the real deal.
After a long and hard journey that began some 18 years ago, when the Cleveland Indians signed the teenager as a free agent out of Venezuela, the Giants second baseman indeed has reached the pinnacle of his career: He's headed to the World Series.
"I am so glad that I am living this experience," said Scutaro, who will turn 37 next Tuesday. "I played with a lot of guys who spent a lot of years in the big leagues, and they never made it this far. You get to a point in your career where there is nothing more important than being in the playoffs and playing in the World Series."
Scutaro's dream became a reality a night earlier when he continued his improbable story, collecting three more hits and catching the pop-up that clinched the pennant as rain poured down on the glistening field.
The MVP of the National League Championship Series has sizzled since the Giants acquired him from Colorado for infielder Charlie Culberson in late July.
The trade, announced during a Friday night game at AT&T Park against the Dodgers, was overshadowed when Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run, 10th-inning homer off Sergio Romo to defeat the Giants.
But in the end, Scutaro's story would resonate far louder.
In 61 games with the Giants down the stretch,
That's 86 points higher than his career average and 91 points higher than his average this season with Colorado.
Scutaro attributes the dramatic turnaround to luck.
"I was swinging the bat good in Colorado, and I just didn't have any luck," he said. "That's the way baseball is. When things are going good, balls tend to always bounce your way. When things are going bad, they get really bad. I don't know how to explain it."
Teammate Angel Pagan has another take: When the clutch moments arrive, so too does Scutaro.
"I know the type of player he is," Pagan said. "And the situations that we needed him is when he executed."
The Detroit Tigers, who face the Giants in the World Series, hope to cool off the Giants' hottest bat.
"I know he's a quality hitter," Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer said. "He handles a lot of different pitches I've thrown before. Obviously, that's something before the game that I am going to have to game plan for."
Scutaro performed even better in the NLCS than he had during the drive to the playoffs, going 14 for 28 with three doubles and six runs.
Along the way, he became a stabilizing presence for younger teammates and an inspiration for the entire team, which wanted nothing more than to get him to his first World Series.
"We have a lot of young guys in the playoffs that need that leadership, and he's been truly everything for us," Pagan said.
Scutaro's journey to the sport's grand stage was indeed lengthy.
He spent eight seasons in the minors before breaking into the big leagues in 2002 with the New York Mets, who acquired him off waivers from Milwaukee. Two years earlier, Scutaro had been the player to be named later in a trade between the Brewers and Indians.
In October 2003, the A's claimed him off waivers from the Mets, and he became a clutch contributor in Oakland's lineup.
Scutaro hit .333 in the A.L. Division Series against Minnesota in 2006, and his four RBIs in Game 3 of that series tied an A's postseason record.
But a year later, Scutaro was on the move again.
Oakland traded him to Toronto for minor league pitchers Kristian Bell and Graham Godfrey.
Scutaro would go on to have productive seasons with the Blue Jays and Boston, which signed him as a free agent in December 2009, before the Red Sox traded him to Colorado in January for pitcher Clayton Mortensen.
Six months later, Scutaro became a Giant.
After his team advanced Monday to play the Tigers in the World Series, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said general manager Brian Sabean did a great job "making that blockbuster deal."
"I knew he was a good player," Bochy said. "But to see him day in, day out, you really appreciate the talent that this guy has."
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