SAN FRANCISCO -- The temptation is to say it started in Game 2 with the slide, Matt Holliday's rolling block past second base that laid Marco Scutaro low and cost him the last four innings of the Giants' first win in this National League Championship Series.
But that would be wrong, despite San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy's suggestion to the contrary.
"I don't know if it was possible for [Scutaro] to raise his game -- that's how well he played, his level," Bochy said about the MVP in this NLCS. "But he did, after that slide. And he was just determined to get to the World Series. He led us there."
It's wrong because Scutaro's journey to the MVP trophy began before that slide. It began at the beginning of his time in San Francisco, actually, as soon as the Giants made the trade-deadline deal with Colorado that brought him to AT&T Park. And certainly as soon as the NLCS began, with his two hits in Game 1, two singles and a run that might have been overlooked amid the detritus of San Francisco's 6-4 loss in the opener.
Two hits in Game 1.
Two hits in Game 2, despite the hip injury from Holliday's takedown in the top of the first that kept him from continuing after the fifth inning.
Two hits in Game 3, including a double.
A double and a single in Game 4, two of the six hits the Giants managed in an 8-3 loss.
A hit and a run in Game 5. His single to right started San Francisco's four-run rally in the fourth inning that set the Giants on their way to a comeback from a three-games-to-one deficit.
Two runs, two RBIs and two hits, including a double, in Game 6.
And three singles, a walk and a run in Game 7, the clincher Monday night. His base hit to right began the five-run third inning that ended the drama early, and you won't see a prettier baseball play than his perfectly executed hit-and-run single to right in the first inning that led to the Giants' first run.
That's 14 hits and a .500 batting average in the series. That's six runs scored and a .533 on-base percentage in the series. That's a .607 slugging percentage and the MVP trophy in the series.
His six multihit games tie Scutaro with Moose Skowron (1960 Yankees) and Sam Rice (1925 Senators) for the record in a single postseason series, and his 14 hits tie him with Kevin Youkilis (2007 Red Sox), Albert Pujols (2004 Cardinals) and Hideki Matsui (2004 Yankees) for the most hits in a single postseason series.
"It means a lot, man," he said late Monday. "Just to be part of this team and just being in the playoffs and having the opportunity to live this experience -- for me, it's unbelievable."
So, no, Scutaro's contributions surely didn't spring solely from the run-in. In fact, the Giants have seen this from Scutaro almost from the moment he arrived in San Francisco. In his 61 games with the team this year, he hit .362 and scored 40 runs, including seven hits in his first five games in a Giants uniform.
"It took him about a day and a half to feel comfortable around here," said Ryan Vogelsong, who won Games 2 and 6 for San Francisco. "And it took him all of about 20 minutes to start hitting around here."
Oh, the Holliday slide might have been a central play in this NLCS, but remember: The Giants lost Games 3 and 4 after the Game 2 incident. If it was a turning point, it was a delayed-reaction turning point, even if Giants fans in AT&T Park expended plenty of energy in directing their vocal venom at Holliday in his every at-bat that followed.
Scutaro was hitting before the slide, and he kept hitting after the slide.
But it's possible, maybe even likely, that his teammates kept the image of the slide in their hip pockets for the right opportunity to prove they had their second baseman's back. The code of the game prohibits any public admission that retaliation might have been a factor, but Giants pitcher Matt Cain began Game 3 in St. Louis by plunking Cardinals leadoff hitter Jon Jay in the bottom of the first. And much to the delight of the 43,056 fans in AT&T Park on Monday, Cain nailed the man himself, Holliday, with a fastball to the shoulder in the sixth inning.
"I'm not going to talk about that," Holliday said later.
Cain, not surprisingly, was coy about it. Everybody on the team wanted to make sure Scutaro knew they were behind him, he said.
At the time, the Giants had a very comfortable 7-0 lead, and Cain clearly was at the end of his evening on the mound. He'd thrown 89 pitches to that point; he was out of the game three hitters later. Could there have been a more opportune time for payback?
Well, maybe, if you believe Vogelsong. Keep the code in mind here, but Vogelsong insisted there was no malice aforethought on Cain's part.
"He didn't hit him on purpose," he said. "It was an 0-2 pitch. He was trying to go up in the zone. If he was trying to hit him, he probably would've hit him earlier in the count. You don't hit people at 0-2, especially in the seventh game of the NLCS against a team that came back from six runs down [in the Cardinals' division series clincher against Washington]."
Scutaro, a 36-year-old from Venezuela, has been in the majors for 11 years and is in his second postseason (he played in the American League Division Series and Championship Series with Oakland in 2006). This will be his first World Series.
"When I wake up this morning, I just say to myself, 'Whatever happens today, I'm just going to try to enjoy this moment and just go out there and have fun,'" he said. "After we were up eight runs or nine, something like that, and in the ninth inning, Game 7, I mean, I just had so much stuff going through my head. Just unbelievable."
So there he was, caught on the Fox cameras in that ninth inning as monsoon rains came down on AT&T Park, looking up to the sky with his mouth open to catch the drops like a little kid.
The Holliday slide had nothing to do with that special moment. But there was perhaps an altogether fitting and proper conclusion to the NLCS, a bookend of sorts. The last out: Holliday's popup … caught on the wet infield dirt.