SAN FRANCISCO — Marco Scutaro looked up through the pouring rain, caught Matt Holliday's popup for the final out and punched his ticket to the World Series for the first time at age 36.
In an NL Championship Series that Scutaro absorbed a hard and admitted late slide from Holliday that strained the second baseman's left hip, what a fitting ending.
Scutaro tied the NLCS record with 14 hits to earn MVP honors, capping his remarkable run with three singles and a walk in San Francisco's 9-0 victory over the Cardinals on Monday night in the decisive Game 7.
A well-traveled veteran, Scutaro arrived from the Rockies in a July 26 trade and made an instant impact for the Giants. He then raised his game to another level.
Scutaro batted .500 (14-for-28) in the NLCS in leading the Giants' comeback from a 3-1 deficit. The 14 hits tied the record for an LCS shared by the Yankees' Hideki Matsui, St. Louis' Albert Pujols and Boston's Kevin Youkilis.
Scutaro's six multihit games in the series set an LCS record, breaking the mark of five shared by five: Harold Baines in 1992, Devon White in 1993, Eddie Perez in 1999, Pujols in 2004 and Youkilis in 2007.
BELTRAN DENIED: Cardinals RF Carlos Beltran may be one of the great postseason hitters in history, but he still hasn't had a chance to prove it on the biggest stage of all.
Beltran's bid to play in the World Series fell one victory short for the third time in as many uniforms. He lost in the seventh game of the NLCS as a Houston Astro in 2004 and as a New York Met in 2006.
The futility of Beltran's quest was encapsulated in his at-bat in the fifth inning against Giants RHP Matt Cain. He hit a ball to right that the wind knocked down, as if some supernatural force were working against him. Hunter Pence was able to get under the ball and make the catch for the third out.
"When you play rightfield in this ballpark you don't know what the ball is going to do," said Beltran, who had a couple of fielding misadventures during the series and was playing on a hurt left knee.
Beltran went 1-for-4 in the game and finished the NLCS 6-for-20 (.300) with a homer and two RBIs.
TWO WHEELS GOOD: Life has been a blur for Pence since he was traded to the Giants from the Phillies in July. If not for his daily commute to AT&T Park during homestands, he would never have a chance to slow down and enjoy his new vistas.
Monday, Pence wound up somewhere he has never been before: in a Game 7, a spot he said "you dream about as a kid."
Pence rides a motorized scooter with a top speed of 20 mph, perfect for his five-minute commute along the sidewalks of the Embarcadero. If it is not too crowded, he said, he allows himself to drink in the views of the Bay Bridge.
It is not easy to draw double takes in a city where eccentricity is celebrated, but at 6 feet 4 inches and more than 200 pounds, Pence tends to stand out on his scooter. Some pedestrians even recognize him as the Giants' starting right fielder. "They'll say, 'Hey, that's Hunter Pence,' " he said.
Pence, who bears a passing resemblance to actor Woody Harrelson, hopes people understand he is not being rude if he does not acknowledge their greetings; he does not want to loosen his grip on the handlebars lest he lose his balance.
SUNNY SKIES: All that concern about a rainy Game 7 proved to be mostly unnecessary.
After a rainy night in San Francisco, the sun came out in the morning and both teams were able to take batting practice on the field before the game. A light drizzle fell briefly while the Cardinals took BP, but the game started without a delay.
"It's good not to have that being an issue in a big game like this," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
The ground crew put the tarp on the field as soon as the Giants won Game 6, and the field was in good condition despite the overnight rain.
GAME 7 HISTORY: This marked just the second Game 7 ever played in San Francisco.
The first one, coming a half-century ago, provided one of the most dramatic endings ever for a winner-take-all postseason game.
With the Yankees protecting a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning at Candlestick Park, the Giants put runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Willie McCovey then hit a screaming liner that 2B Bobby Richardson grabbed to end the Series.
AROUND THE MAJORS: Yankees RHP Michael Pineda, who missed the season after having surgery to repair a torn labrum, isn't expected to return until June at the earliest, GM Brian Cashman said. … The Padres announced that the fences at Petco Park, one of baseball's friendliest pitcher's parks, will be moved in next season from 11 to 12 feet in the power alleys. … The Mariners named former major-leaguer Dave Hansen as hitting coach, replacing Chris Chambliss. … The Twins named Tom Brunansky as hitting coach, Bobby Cuellar as bullpen coach and Terry Steinbach as bench coach and catching instructor. … The Rockies appointed Mark Wiley to a new position of director of pitching operations.