SAN FRANCISCO: Travis Ishikawa’s walk-off ninth-inning blast lifted the San Francisco Giants to a 6-3 win over St. Louis on Thursday and into baseball’s World Series.
The Giants will face American League champions Kansas City for the Major League Baseball’s World Series crown, with the Royals hosting game one on Tuesday.
San Francisco are back in baseball’s championship showcase for the third time in five years. They won the title in 2010 and 2012 and will be gunning for the eighth championship in club history.
“It doesn’t get any better,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after his players won their third straight game. “What a group. No one has any will stronger than us.”
Ishikawa’s heroics followed an eighth-inning solo shot by Giants pinch-hitter Michael Morse that tied the game 3-3.
St. Louis threatened in the top of the ninth, but with the bases loaded Giants relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt induced pinch-hitter Oscar Taveras to ground out to end the inning.
San Francisco slugger Pablo Sandoval then singled to open the bottom of the ninth against Cardinals hurler Michael Wacha, who hadn’t pitched in 20 days because of shoulder trouble.
With one out Brandon Belt walked to bring Ishikawa to the plate. After taking two balls from Wacha, Ishikawa powered a 96 mph (154 kph) fastball into the seats above the right field wall.
The Giants were already celebrating as Ishikawa rounded the bases, and he was greeted at home plate by a celebratory mob of team-mates.
It was redemption for Ishikawa, who had misjudged Jon Jay’s drive in the third inning, making a vain leap for the ball that sailed over his head for a double that scored a run and put the Cardinals up 1-0.
“I was trying to be short to the ball,” Ishikawa said. “I knew he (Wacha) threw hard. I’d never seen him before, but I knew he had a good fastball and changeup. It was a good pitch after taking two in. I was just short to the ball and let the rest happen.
“This is a great feeling,” Ishikawa added. “I can’t even describe it.”
Joe Panik had put the Giants up 2-1 with a two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning. That was San Francisco’s first home run since Belt’s 18th-inning homer in the marathon game two of the division series at Washington on October 4.
Panik’s homer came off St. Louis starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, but San Francisco’s other two came after the Cardinals lifted their ace, even though he retired the last 10 batters he faced.
Morse, batting for pitcher Madison Bumgarner, led off the eighth with his game-tying homer off reliever Pat Neshek.
Bumgarner, who was named most valuable player of the series, retired the last 13 batters he faced after giving up home runs to Matt Adams and Tony Cruz in the fourth inning, which gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead that held up through seven innings.
“I was just making pitches with conviction,” Bumgarner said. “I knew it would be a dogfight. We did a great job of battling back.”
Wainwright had seven strikeouts, including three in the sixth inning when he retired Buster Posey, Sandoval and Hunter Pence on 13 pitches.
“We lost four games and won only one, but we were in every game,” said Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter. “To get to the World Series you have to catch some breaks, and we didn’t catch any.”