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12/27/10 10:00 AM EST

Many heroes stepped up in Giants' title run

SAN FRANCISCO -- This was the year that the Giants, make that the San Francisco Giants, had awaited forever.

They collected their previous five World Series triumphs while playing in New York, which they deserted for San Francisco before the 1958 season. Not since '54 had the Giants secured Major League Baseball's biggest prize.

But the Giants ended their skid in dynamic fashion, clinching the National League West on the regular season's final day -- before winning 11 of 15 games in a postseason that climaxed with a five-game Fall Classic victory over Texas.

The Giants won their first World Series for San Francisco by relying on a classic combination: pitching and defense. The franchise renowned for power hitting (surely you've heard of Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Mel Ott) led the Majors in ERA (3.36) for only the second time since moving West. The Giants also recorded a .988 fielding percentage, their best in San Francisco history.

The Giants lacked a 30-home run hitter and a 100-RBI producer, and ranked ninth in the NL in scoring. Yet, they mustered enough offense to complement their pitching. Newcomer Aubrey Huff batted .290 with a team-high 26 homers and 86 RBIs, taking his place among a handful of performers who shared unofficial team Most Valuable Player status with Juan Uribe, Buster Posey, Andres Torres and Pat Burrell.

San Francisco, which spent only 37 days in first place, seemed doomed after falling 7 1/2 games behind San Diego on July 4. From that juncture, the Giants went 51-30 and capitalized on San Diego's 10-game losing streak from Aug. 26-Sept. 5 to end their six-year hiatus from the postseason.

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5. Lean on me, or him. Or him. Or ...

Different Giants carried the team at different times. Aaron Rowand and Pablo Sandoval started hot. July, when the Giants posted a 20-8 record, belonged to Huff, Torres and Posey, who each compiled an OPS of 1.027 or higher. Freddy Sanchez took over late in the season, hitting .330 from Aug. 23 on. Burrell and Uribe came through in the clutch throughout the season, combining to hit 18 home runs that either tied the score or put the Giants ahead.

4. Youth is for the young -- and talented

Posey was so proficient that the Giants felt comfortable trading Bengie Molina, who had guided their pitching staff for 3 1/2 seasons, to Texas. Sure, Posey thrived on offense, particularly when he had a 21-game hitting streak in July. But his ability to mesh well, and quickly, with the pitching staff made him truly distinctive. Among the pitchers who Posey collaborated with was Madison Bumgarner, the 21-year-old who displayed a 10-year veteran's poise. Bumgarner fashioned a 1.13 ERA in five September starts before going 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in four postseason appearances.

3. Giants baseball: Torture!

This became the team's unofficial slogan, coined by broadcaster Duane Kuiper and reinforced frequently by the Giants' exploits. San Francisco played 115 regular-season games decided by three or fewer runs -- most in the Major Leagues. The Giants finished 63-52 in those games. That trend continued in the postseason, when they played 11 such games and won eight. San Francisco came from behind to win 37 games, fifth most in the NL.

2. It all starts at the top

General manager Brian Sabean's in-season acquisitions proved essential. The trend began with Burrell, who hit 18 homers in 289 at-bats. Right-handers Chris Ray and Ramon Ramirez and left-hander Javier Lopez bolstered the bullpen. Infielder Mike Fontenot and right fielder Jose Guillen helped down the stretch. And Cody Ross' feats, particularly in the postseason, will live on in Giants lore. Manager Bruce Bochy used 126 different lineups, which kept virtually all of his players involved, sharpened their skills and enabled them to contribute when summoned.

1. Nothing succeeds like pitching

The Giants were strongest when it counted most. They held opponents to three runs or fewer in 18 consecutive games from Sept. 5-24. The emergence of Bumgarner and fellow left-hander Jonathan Sanchez solidified the rotation. Brian Wilson saved a Major League-high 48 games. As good as the Giants were in the regular season, they shaved nearly a run off their Major League-best ERA to 2.45 in the postseason. The starters excelled -- Tim Lincecum went 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA and Matt Cain yielded one unearned run in 21 1/3 innings -- while Wilson remained resolute by converting six saves in seven chances.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.