- The A’s sweep the Rangers to secure an unlikely AL West title, 2012
The 2012 iteration of the Oakland A’s was as strapped for cash as ever, sporting the second-lowest payroll in all of the majors. After finding themselves 13 games out of the AL West race at the end of June, the misfits assembled by general manager Billy Beane began to find their footing. Led by Cuban slugger Yoenis Céspedes, Oakland went on a 19-5 tear in July — by the end of the month, the A’s were only 3.5 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers. With the deficit at two by the end of the season, the division title would come down to the final three games between the A’s and Rangers at the Coliseum. After winning the first two in the series, the A’s stormed back from 5-1 down with six runs in the fourth inning and eventually pulled away for a 12-5 victory to clinch the division for the first time since 2006.
- Gregor Blanco and “the unbelievable catch,” 2012
On June 3, 2012, Matt Cain’s perfect game entered the seventh inning and set the stage for one of the most iconic defensive plays in Giants history. Leading off the frame, the Astros’ Jordan Schafer launched a ball deep into the right-center field gap that seemed destined to bounce off the wall for extra bases. Right fielder Gregor Blanco caught up and dove headfirst, arms extended, sliding on the outfield grass — and then he held his glove high over his head, the ball nestled safely inside. The 22nd perfect game was still alive. Cain turned from the mound towards the outfield and tipped his cap towards Blanco — eight long outs later, he could finally thank him properly.
- Even-year magic, 2010-14
Three World Series championships came to San Francisco in 2010, 2012 and 2014 behind the efforts of different heroes each time — from the bearded Brian Wilson to the simply scruffy Buster Posey. 2010 saw the orange and black win their first Series since 1954, the franchise’s first since moving from New York to the Bay Area. Two seasons later, a ragtag team of unlikely performers like midyear signing Marco Scutaro would complete a four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, vanquishing the three-headed pitching monster of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Aníbal Sánchez along with batting Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. A scrappy group of Royals pushed the Giants to the limit in 2014, but Madison Bumgarner wrote his name in the ledger of postseason greats as he shut the door with five scoreless innings out of the bullpen in the deciding game seven.
- Dallas Braden’s poetic performance, 2012
Since 1876, more than 200,000 major league games have been played. In that span, only 23 perfect games have ever been recorded. The odds of facing 27 professional hitters and not letting a single one reach base are impossibly low — but even among feats of the most special variety, Dallas Braden’s performance stood out. Braden had lost his mother to cancer back in high school and lived under his grandmother’s care for the rest of his childhood. With his grandmother in the stands for a Mother’s Day contest against the Rays, Oakland’s soft-tossing left-hander cruised almost effortlessly through nine innings — a Gabe Kapler groundout completed the 19th perfect game in MLB history. A tearful Braden hugged his grandmother on the field, not knowing that shoulder injuries would force him into a premature retirement the following season. It would be his final achievement as a professional — and it truly could not have been more perfect.
- Travis Ishikawa wins the pennant, 2014
As a kid, this is what you think about when you play in your backyard. A 2-0 count, tie game, bottom of the ninth inning. One out with runners on second and third. The game to give your team the pennant, and you know a fastball is on its way — those imaginary runners better not get picked off.
For Travis Ishikawa, the road to this chance was wrought with uncertainty. He started his career with the Giants in 2006 and departed after winning the 2010 World Series. For the next three years he bounced between four different teams, finding little success until his return to San Francisco in 2014. In game five the NL championship series, one swing of his bat erased all the previous struggles. With a 2-0 count in the bottom of the ninth, Ishikawa did what all kids dream of doing — he sent the ball onto the right field wall. He ran the bases like he was about to be thrown out at home — a full sprint, arms extended, yelling all the way. The call resonated across the nation: “The Giants win the pennant!”
That they did. All thanks to a beat-up first baseman who took his second chance and knocked it onto Levi’s Landing.
Chanun Ong covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].