Ann Killion
Saturday October 23rd, 2010

On the bright side for the Giants, there wasn't an earthquake in Game 5. So at least that part of their agonizing postseason history was avoided.

There was, however, an avalanche of missed opportunities, from which the Giants now have to dig out.

San Francisco missed a golden chance to get to the World Series and unleash a wild party in the streets. But the Giants couldn't close out the NLCS at home, against an injured Roy Halladay. So now they're back in hostile Philadelphia, clinging to a 3-2 lead over the two-time National League champions.

"With this club, we don't do anything easy," manager Bruce Bochy said.

True. The Giants adopted the slogan "Giants baseball: torture" -- coined by team broadcaster Duane Kuiper -- and it accurately described their late season stretch of one-run games and last-chance survivals. The Giants whiffed on their first two opportunities to clinch a playoff berth against San Diego, waiting until the last day of the regular season to do it.

A week ago, no one in the Giants clubhouse would have predicted that getting past the Phillies would be easy. And they all would have been right.

"We've made this tortuous all year long," said Aubrey Huff, who shouldered the blame for the loss Thursday due to his third inning error. "It would be so awesome not to get on a six-hour flight and go out and party instead. But we make it hard."

And now the Giants' hard past comes into play. Willie McCovey's scorched liner right to the Yankees' Bobby Richardson in the Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. The sweep by the A's in the earthquake-interrupted 1989 World Series.

And the 1987 and 2002 heartbreaks. Twice in their San Francisco history the Giants have boarded a plane with a 3-2 series lead, trying to close out a series on the road. Twice they've failed.

In 1987, in St. Louis the Giants' pennant dreams were dashed due to a misplayed ball by their own Candy Maldonado in Game 6 and a three-run homer by Cardinals' non-slugger Jose Oquendo in Game 7. More recently, in the 2002 World Series, the Giants took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 6 against the Angels and lost not only that game but Game 7 as well.

No one on the Giants roster -- save for a few members of the coaching staff -- was involved in those past series. No current player could recite the details. And they work in a city where the team's past failures are not woven into the daily fabric of life -- though they certainly became talking points in the bars and on the airwaves beginning Thursday night.

Will moments from Game 5 be etched into Giants' franchise heartbreak? Pablo Sandoval feeling for third base like a late-night drunk trying to find that first stair in the dark? Huff booting a ball almost to the Bay Bridge? Jayson Werth's flyball that wasn't going out until it did?

The Giants' posture on Thursday night was worry-free. "If you'd told us before the series started that we'd be in this position, I think we'd all take it," Huff said.

The Giants go into Philadelphia knowing they can win there: the Phillies' Game 1 loss was their first in an NLCS game played at Citizens Bank Park. The Giants also have defeated the next two scheduled Phillies pitchers: Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. They handed Oswalt his only postseason loss -- though that was when he came out of the bullpen in relief in Game 4, not as a starter.

The Giants have Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain going. Sanchez won the clinching-game for the Giants on the last day of the season and beat the Braves in Atlanta. He lost Game 2 in Philadelphia, though he pitched relatively well. Cain shut down the Phillies in Game 3.

The Giants still feel this is their series to lose. "We have a lot of confidence going back there," Tim Lincecum said. "From our perspective we see ourselves in a better spot. We have a little more control."

For the moment. But there's been a definite shift in series momentum. A long unwanted flight back east. And a bunch of missed opportunities.

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