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As we head into a new year, let’s take a look back at the best MLB playoff performances in 2012. Like always, there was much to revel in and rejoice about—especially for San Francisco Giants fans.
10. Delmon Young, ALCS Game 1
Detroit Tigers DH Delmon Young began the ALCS on a high note, going 3-for-4 with a double, a home run, and three RBIs, as the Tigers won Game 1 6-4 against the New York Yankees. Young’s home run came off Derek Lowe in the eighth inning and, at the time, gave Detroit a 4-0 lead. The Tigers, of course, went on to sweep New York to advance to the World Series.
9. Pablo Sandoval, NLDS Game 4
Kung-Fu Panda proved immense (no pun intended) for San Francisco all postseason long and was a central factor in helping the Giants stay alive against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 4 of the NLDS. The third baseman went 3-for-4 with a double and a home run off Cincinnati’s Jose Arredondo in the seventh inning to extend the Giants’ lead to 8-3. Sandoval finished the game with three RBIs and, as fate would have it, the four-year veteran had another sterling performance for San Francisco later in the playoffs.
8. C.C. Sabathia, ALDS Game 5
Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia showed why the team placed so much financial faith in him last offseason in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles. The big left-hander threw a complete game, four-hit gem to help New York advance to the ALCS over a pesky Orioles team. Sabathia threw 121 pitches and struck out nine, while allowing just one earned run. The much-maligned Yankees offense snuck three runs across the plate to give Sabathia his second win of the series.
7. Carlos Beltran, NLDS Game 2
St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran continued his dominant postseason play in 2012 and, in Game 2 against the Washington Nationals, the 14-year veteran recorded two home runs to help St. Louis to a 12-4 blowout victory. The first came in the sixth inning off Washington’s Mike Gonzalez, while the second shot, in the eighth, turned the game into a laugher. The Cardinals would ultimately beat the Nationals in five games to advance to the NLCS.
6. Anibal Sanchez, ALCS Game 2
Detroit’s starting pitching had little trouble with the Yankee bats in the ALCS and Sanchez turned in the best performance of all. The 28-year-old pitched seven shutout innings, surrendering just three hits and striking out seven. Overall in the series, Tigers’ starting pitching held New York’s offense to only two earned runs in four games. Moreover, Detroit clearly liked what they saw in Sanchez, as the two sides recently agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract.
5. Madison Bumgarner, World Series Game 2
Bumgarner struggled for much of the postseason, but in his only World Series start, the left-hander dominated Detroit over seven innings. The 23-year-old gave up no runs, struck out eight, and allowed only four hits in the outing. Along with fellow starter Ryan Vogelsong, who would pitch a shutout in Game 3, Bumgarner helped San Francisco put a stranglehold on the Tigers' offense and take control of the World Series. Just two games later, the Giants were World Series Champions.
4. Raul Ibanez, ALDS Game 3
Ibanez did not start Game 3 against the Orioles, but, as we all know, he sure finished it. With the Yankees down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Ibanez pinch-hit for the struggling Alex Rodriguez and belted a home run to right field off Baltimore closer Jim Johnson. The 40-year-old’s heroics would continue in the 12th inning, as Ibanez crushed a Brian Matusz fastball into the right field seats once again for a walk-off, two-run home run. Partially thanks to Ibanez’s magic, the Yankees would go on to win the series in five games.
3. Barry Zito, NLCS Game 5
With his team down 3-1 against the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCS, Barry Zito took the hill for San Francisco trying to stave off elimination. At the time, you could have forgiven Giants fans for giving up hope: Zito had made only one postseason start and lasted just 2.2 innings against the Reds. But on the road in St. Louis, Zito was masterful, throwing 7.2 shutout innings and surrendering just six hits and no earned runs, while also striking out six. Zito’s performance began a seven-game win streak for San Francisco that would end with the franchise’s second World Series title in three years.
2. Justin Verlander, ALDS Game 5
Another dominant pitching performance on the road, Verlander was near unhittable against the Oakland A’s in Game 5 of the ALDS. With everything on the line, the 2011 AL MVP threw a complete game shutout, striking out 11 A’s hitters and giving up only four hits. Verlander needed 122 pitches to beat Oakland and, at the time, lowered his playoff ERA to a miniscule 0.56. The performance ended Oakland’s storybook season and enabled Detroit to advance to the ALCS.
1. Pablo Sandoval, World Series Game 1
The hefty third baseman came through again for the Giants, this time belting three home runs—in his first three at-bats, no less—to help San Francisco take Game 1 of the World Series, 8-3. With the performance, Sandoval became just the fourth player in World Series history to hit three home runs in one game, joining the trio of Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols. Sandoval’s first two dingers came off Detroit’s Justin Verlander and his third came in the fifth inning off reliever Al Alburquerque. The historic performance set the tone for the series and helped San Francisco to a World Series sweep of the Tigers.