SAN FRANCISCO — Travis Ishikawa and Michael Morse were not Giants legends before Thursday, but they are now.
That’s what this team is: A bunch of guys just patiently waiting their turns to be legendary, on a nightly basis.
Then doing the legend thing, again and again and again … all the way to their third World Series in five years.
At the end of this National League Championship Series against St. Louis, the Giants’ final hero was Ishikawa, who started his career with the Giants, was released, and eventually came back this season as an unassuming role player and then suddenly was thrown into left field for the playoffs.
Now? He’s Bobby Thomson 2.0.
On Thursday, it was Ishikawa — a 31-year-old journeyman first baseman — who misplayed a fly ball in left field that led to the Cardinals’ first run off Giants starter Madison Bumgarner.
So of course it was Ishikawa who came up in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth with two runners on, then hit the home run that won this game, 6-3.
And he’s the one who had to fight through his teammates’ giddy tackles as he rounded the bases.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew instantly the game was over because I knew it would be at least be off the wall,” Ishikawa said.
“As I was going across the (first-base) bag, I was thinking, ‘Man, if this goes out it’s going to be incredible.’
“And I just saw it sneak over. And after that I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything else after that.”
Time stopped. The moment froze. The Cardinals players drooped. That’s what happens when history happens in a lightning flash.
Then it all sped up again, and everything was noise at AT&T Park after hours of tension, worry, surprise, and now release.
Game over, series over, the pennant in their pocket and now the Giants take on the Royals in the World Series starting Tuesday in Kansas City.
“The story of tonight’s Ishikawa, man — that was unbelievable,” reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. “Him running around the bases — he had to have been floating. He felt so bad on that misplayed fly ball there. So for him to get redemption like that, can’t be any greater feeling for him.”
Ishikawa became just the fourth player in baseball history to send a team to the World Series on a walk-off homer in an LCS game and the first Giant to hit a pennant-winning homer since a guy named Bobby Thomson in 1951.
“That’s baseball history right there,” outfielder Hunter Pence said.
It sure is. This whole team is living history, though.
Before Ishikawa’s home run came Morse’s dramatic pinch-hit solo blast an inning earlier to tie the game 3-3, when all looked rather dark and gloomy for the Giants’ hopes of finishing off this series on Thursday and preventing a trip back to St. Louis for Game 6.
And yes, Morse had his own back story: The Giants’ everyday left fielder was injured for the final weeks of the season, hadn’t been particularly good for many weeks before that, and was held out of the Giants’ wild-card game and series against Washington.
If Morse hadn’t gotten hurt, Ishikawa would not be playing left field (or at all) in this postseason.
But when Morse got his opportunity against tough reliever Pat Neshek on Thursday, the ball left the yard to tie the game.
“I had a feeling he was going to do something good,” Bumgarner said of Morse, who was pinch-hitting for the pitcher after Bumgarner’s eight-inning stint.
“Nobody — especially no right-handed hitter — likes facing Neshek. So you know it’s going to be a tough at-bat. But we had a good feeling with him going up there.”
Add in Joe Panik’s two-run shot in the third inning and that gave the Giants three homers in this game — after going the previous six postseason games without a long ball.
“For us to have no home runs and then all of a sudden we get one to go ahead, another to tie, another to win it — I mean, that’s a storybook deal right there,” Affeldt said.
“That is an amazing feat by this team. It’s a credit to everybody playing hard, keeping this game close, and then anything can happen.”
Affeldt had an enormous series coming out of the bullpen repeatedly in crucial situations, and he was summoned one last time in this one to get dangerous pinch-hitter Oscar Taveras with the bases loaded in the ninth.
Taveras hit a tapper back to Affeldt, who raced the ball to the bag himself to end the inning.
That led to the bottom of the ninth, which opened with a Pablo Sandoval single, then a Brandon Belt walk, then Ishikawa, with one out.
It wasn’t time to brood about his misplay hours earlier. It was time to become a legend.
“Obviously, I spent the rest of that defensive inning thinking that I might’ve just cost us the game,” Ishikawa said of his blunder. “But Bum did a fantastic job only allowing that one run to score. Joe hit a big homer in the following half-inning to get us back in.
“Every single guy on this team, every single coach came up to me, slapped me on the back, said don’t worry, you’re going to get ‘em, you’re going to get ‘em, stick with it.”
Then Ishikawa got a high fastball from Michael Wacha and slammed it just over the right-field wall, and Giants pitcher Jake Peavy raced from the dugout and practically upended Ishikawa between second and third base.
Ishikawa motored through it and officially touched home plate, somehow.
“We forgot we had to let him touch home plate for a minute,” Bumgarner said.
Ishikawa found his way. He secured his legend. The Giants won the pennant — you might want to shout that out repeatedly just for history’s sake — and next up is the World Series.