SAN FRANCISCO (AP/WAVY) — After three years away with four different teams, Travis Ishikawa landed himself a second chance with San Francisco right where he so wanted to be.
And with one sweet swing, he sent the Giants back to the World Series.
It was the Shot That Shook the Bay.
A little over a year before that magical moment, Ishikawa wore a Norfolk Tides uniform, still trying to find his way back to the majors.
Ishikawa, who played for the Tides in 2013, made good on the big stage only a few months removed from the minors, hitting the first homer to end an NL Championship Series on a three-run drive that lifted San Francisco to a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 on Thursday night.
“It’s gratifying,” Ishikawa said. “If there’s an organization I’d want to do it for, it would be this one.”
These every-other-year Giants will face the Royals in an all wild-card World Series that begins Tuesday night in Kansas City.
A journeyman who began the season with Pittsburgh, Ishikawa connected for the first game-ending home run that sent the Giants into the World Series since perhaps the most famous drive in baseball history — Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in a 1951 playoff.
A role player during the Giants’ World Series win in 2010, Ishikawa was with Milwaukee in 2012 when San Francisco won another championship.
“His story, his journey through the big leagues and coming back to us and getting a hit like that is just unbelievable,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said.
Pablo Sandoval singled to start the ninth inning against Michael Wacha, making his first appearance of the postseason for the Cardinals. After an out, Brandon Belt walked to bring up Ishikawa, who drove a 2-0 pitch into the elevated seats in right field to set off an orange towel-waving frenzied celebration.
“These guys have been through it,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “They have been battle-tested and they know how to handle themselves on this type of stage, and then add to that the kids that we brought up, and then Ishikawa.
“I mean, what a great story,” Bochy said.
Ishikawa knew right away on his first career postseason homer, raising his right arm into the air as he watched his ball sail into the seats. He emphatically threw his helmet down to the dirt in triumph and joined his jubilant teammates at home plate as fireworks shot off from the center field scoreboard.
Pinch-hitter Michael Morse homered leading off the eighth against Pat Neshek, who replaced Adam Wainwright to start the inning, to tie it 3-all.
Morse — relegated to a reserve role because of a lengthy oblique injury — was batting for Madison Bumgarner, crowned NLCS MVP.
“It’s unbelievable,” Morse said. “This team has been on the same page since the beginning.”
After taking a 3-1 lead in the series on wild throws the past two days, the Giants used the long ball to advance to their third Series in five years by knocking out the defending NL champions.
Rookie Joe Panik hit a two-run drive in the third inning off Wainwright for the Giants’ first homer in seven games.
“Just a gutty effort through all this and I couldn’t be prouder of these guys. They just don’t stop fighting,” Bochy said.
Ishikawa was the Pirates’ opening-day first baseman, but was soon cut. He re-signed with the Giants, his original team, on a minor league deal and went to Triple-A before making it back to the majors. He moved from his natural first base spot to play left field for the injured Morse.
“He signed a minor league contract, he more or less picked us,” general manager Brian Sabean said. “I’m not surprised he hit a home run, I’m not. I’m surprised he’s our starting left fielder. That’s amazing to me. That’s the kind of commitment he had to wanting to get on the field.”
Ishikawa took a winding journey to his winning home run, too. Earlier in the game, he misplayed a fly ball to left field that cost his team a run. He more than made up for it with his final swing.
“I think a lot of us forgot that we had to let him touch home plate,” Bumgarner said. “We wanted to run and tackle him around second base. We were excited.”
Bumgarner did not allow a hit after Tony Cruz homered to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead with two outs in the fourth, working eight efficient innings. Matt Adams also went deep in the fourth.
Bumgarner retired his final 13 batters to keep the Giants close, winding up with a no-decision.
“He’s just so consistent, he really is,” catcher Buster Posey said. “It doesn’t matter the situation, that’s what makes him so good.”