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Theriot playing in perfect harmony

Giants reserve loves great chemistry on his World Series teams the last 2 years

Phil Rogers

On Baseball

4:38 PM CDT, October 27, 2012

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The Giants gather in a tight circle at an end of the dugout before games, always with Hunter Pence somewhere in the middle. They scream, yell and throw things as they prepare for the game in a way that would upset the moms of most Little Leaguers.

"(Sunflower) seeds, gum, cups, you name it,'' Ryan Theriot said. "You have to be careful. I got hit in the side of the head with a coffee creamer the other day.''

Theriot compares this pre-game ritual to Coach Taylor addressing his Dillon High Panthers before games.

"You ever see Friday Night Lights?'' he asked.

Eric Taylor's mantra to his football team in the now-extinct television series was "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.'' Theriot can relate.

A starting shortstop for the Cubs for four seasons, the Louisiana native loved life in Chicago before his growing salary and Starlin Castro's availability led to a trade late in the 2010 season. It was painful at the time but has turned into a blessing for Theriot, who won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2011 and has an excellent chance to repeat that feat as a bench player for the tightly connected Giants.

On the day after they had beaten Kyle Lohse to win the pennant, the Giants held a light workout at AT&T Park. The mood was no different, Theriot said, than on Oct. 9 when they faced elimination in the third game of the playoffs.

"We're not just happy to be here,'' Theriot said. "We're ready to go.''

It turns out they were. As the Series moved from San Francisco to Detroit for the middle games, the Giants were leading 2-0 and Theriot was having to adjust to a new challenge — trying to maintain a lead. He mostly has been a part of amazing October comebacks and victories in the most crucial games.

Between them, Theriot's teams were 20-12 the last two Octobers, but you shouldn't judge them by that .625 winning percentage. They spent more time on the carpet than ahead, somehow going 10-0 in games when a loss would have ended their season.

Down to their last strike in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, the Cardinals beat the Rangers and then won Game 7. They had survived a Game 5 date with Roy Halladay in the Division Series to get there.

This year's Giants have lived even more on the edge. They had to win three games in a row in Cincinnati to advance to the NL Championship Series, then won the last three against the Cardinals to reach the World Series.

How have they done it?

"You have to have great chemistry,'' Theriot said. "You have to play like a team, guys have to put their own situations aside and you have to trust the guy next to you 100 percent. If you don't have that trust, you can't keep doing this. You just can't.

"The other teams are too good. But you don't win on talent alone. It's almost like this time of the year character, being a good teammate, is more important than being a great player.''

Theriot twice went to the playoffs with the Cubs but the Diamondbacks and Dodgers swept those Lou Piniella teams in the first round. What was the difference between them and the teams he has played on the last two years?

"I've said it three times since you've been standing there,'' Theriot said. "It's character, it's having guys who play for the team, it's being able to believe in the guy standing next to you … if you don't trust the guy standing next to you, it's going to be a long year. Unless you're a rookie or a kid you know it.''

Theriot didn't single out any of his former teammates for selfishness, but Carlos Zambrano and Milton Bradley were the guys in the clubhouse the least like Tim Riggins and Matt Saracen, Dillon High's core guys.

The 32-year-old Theriot was the Cardinals' leadoff man in Game 7 last year. He's part of the Giants' bench now, with his playing time having shrunk since the arrival of Marco Scutaro.

He can live with that. He really doesn't even mind the coffee creamers to the side of the head. Not in the World Series, anyway.

Ounce of prevention: Doug Fister insisted he was OK after he took a Gregor Blanco line drive off the top right side of his head Thursday night, saying he just had a "bump.'' But Brandon McCarthy, who suffered a fractured skull in early September, tweeted his surprise that the Tigers allowed Fister to fly home to Detroit without giving him an MRI to determine if he had any swelling of the brain.

The scary Fister play could have been a disaster for the Tigers' pitcher and an ugly chapter for the sport. The time is coming when more pitchers will protect themselves by wearing padded or Kevlar inserts inside their caps, and it's possible Major League Baseball could mandate it, as it did helmets for base coaches after the death of minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh.

MLB's Medical Advisory Committee is studying the issue, which will be explored thoroughly at the winter meetings in December.

Welcome to the club: Reggie Jackson was impressed with Pablo Sandoval's three-homer night to start the World Series.

Jackson called the Giants to try to offer personal congratulations to Sandoval.

"He's a lovable character, he's easy to root for,'' Jackson told the San Francisco Chronicle's Scott Ostler. "Any time a guy takes a full cut, hits a home run, and when he runs around the bases he swung so hard his shirt-tail's falling out, I can go for that.''

Sandoval joined Babe Ruth (twice), Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players with three homers in a series game. In the years those greats had their three-homer games, their respective home run totals were 47, 54, 32 and 37. Sandoval had 12 this year, but had six through 14 postseason games.

"He always will be remembered, they'll always think of him when the World Series comes around, so that's a good thing,'' Jackson said. "When people mention you, don't forget you, that's nice. I enjoyed the moment."

The last word: "You won't see me get in his way." — Ken Williams on Rick Hahn, his successor as White Sox general manager.

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